Mormons Support Immigrant Dreams

This afternoon, the LDS Newsroom issued a statement in support of Dreamers.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established in 188 nations around the globe. Issues of immigration and legal status are of concern for many of our members. Most of our early Church members emigrated from foreign lands to live, work and worship, blessed by the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation….

[W]e call upon our national leaders to create policies that provide hope and opportunities for those, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” who grew up here from a young age and for whom this country is their home. They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place. These individuals have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.

Mormons are so good on immigration.  And not just for Dreamers (which more than 80% of Americans support) — we’re good across the board.  I love our Christlike commitment to welcoming strangers. 

Let’s run through a list of our recent highlights.

Throughout 2017:  Mormon Women for Ethical Government (a nonprofit not affiliated with the Church) forms and begins to champion efforts to promote humane immigration policy, including by initiating grassroots campaigns, engaging in widespread advocacy to the press and government officials, and funding legal fees for some individuals targeted for deportations.

January 2017:  The Church reiterates its support for welcoming refugees in the wake of the President Trump’s first travel ban.

2016: Relief Society announces worldwide initiative in support of refugees, and launches “I Was A Stranger” website.

2015:   Utah Governor Gary Herbert is the only Republican state governor to support Syrian refugees.

2014:  President Uchtdorf attends Oval Office meeting on comprehensive immigration reform.  The Mormon principle on immigration he declared to President Obama “is that we love our neighbor, which means we love all people, in all places and at all times…One of the core values we stand for is families. The separation of families (in U.S. immigration policy) isn’t helping.”

2012:  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that Mormons across-the-board support immigration more than expected.   “Mormons are much more likely than evangelical Protestants to say that immigrants strengthen rather than burden the United States…younger Mormons are more likely to view immigrants as an asset to the country…”

2011:  The Church supports measures to provide legal status to an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in America:  “The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.”

2010:  Utah State government officials and Church leaders support “The Utah Compact,” which sets forth principles of sound immigration policy, including recognizing the vital role immigrants play in the economy, the need to keep families together, and the recognition that only criminal conduct by immigrants (not civil violations such as overstaying visas) should be an enforcement priority.

And for some bonus historical context:

1849-1869:  The Church runs the Perpetual Emigration Fund, to assist more than 30,000 Mormon converts in coming to the United States.  (The Fund ends when it was dissolved by the U.S. Federal Government as retaliation for Mormon’s continued support of polygamy.)


Immigration lies near the heart of the Mormon experience.  Keeping families together is core to our doctrine.  And our emphasis on missionary work means thats large numbers of our youth spend two years working directly with immigrants and foreigners, learning foreign languages and dedicating their lives to service.  It’s hard, I would hope nigh-unto-impossible, to have such a formative experience, then return home and engage in political invective and false caricatures of the immigrant experience.

I pray we will always welcome the strangers among us, and redouble our efforts whenever we fall short.

Note:  For this post, on an initial search, I’ve been unable to find particular stories about Mormon advocacy for specific immigration policies in other countries.  If BCC commentators have supplemental sources, please provide them!  Best I found in a first pass was this heartwarming story about Mormon Chileans welcoming Haitian immigrations.

 

 

Comments

  1. You have to be a little careful here — if it weren’t for church leadership, UT would have probably passed an anti-immigration bill in 2008. The church killed it (gently) with a few words from Marlin K. Jensen. But it probably would have passed otherwise.

    https://www.deseretnews.com/article/695253048/Have-compassion-for-immigrants-lawmakers-urged.html

  2. I agree that there’s much less pro-immigrant feeling among a certain slice of the membership of the church. I’d be interested to know what a poll would show.

    And, before some other nit-picking historian arrives, I’ll gently point out that it was the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. You’re in good company though: the Wikipedia entry begins with “The Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, commonly known as [what you called it] . . . .”

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Locally here in Chicago the lawyers of the J. Reuben Clark Society have run a citizenship clinic for immigrants and refugees the last two years (I participated in both iterations; it was a great experience). Here’s a report I posted about the first iteration in 2016:

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2016/10/29/pro-bono-publico/

  4. “Mormons Support Immigrant Dreams”

    Sadly, the comments on facebook and KSL seem to suggest otherwise.

  5. Members of the church also operate nonprofits that assist refugees in the U.S. and abroad (such as Lifting Hands International).

    Additionally, in September 2016, Elder Holland made a very vocal plea for governments to do more to assist refugees. (Unfortunately, his own government did not listen.)

  6. My church United Methodist have made many statements about supporting immigrants, but they are harsh, whiny and of course anti Trump. The statement from your leadership was thoughtful, balanced and supportive. That is why I keep reading your churches literature. It trusts, convicts, and is scriptural.

  7. BCC mourns when the FP makes policies on LGBT issues and celebrates when they make statements on immigration. Which is it going to be?

  8. Some Mormons celebrate when the FP makes policies on LGBT issues and ignore when they make statements on immigration. Which is it going to be?

  9. The church has certainly perfected the art of putting out the most toothless and tepid statement imaginable in vague support of a small fraction of the American immigrant population (of course, the Newsroom hastens to add, should the government disagree that is entirely its right). If this is what we’re calling moral leadership, that’s sadder than if the church had said nothing at all.

  10. Sometimes you can actually get more positive things done by a softer statement that turns away wrath as opposed to words that stir up anger. Prov. 15:1.

  11. A couple things I thought were notable about this statement:
    (1) The church likes to stay politically neutral, but it reserves the right to speak out on moral issues, so the fact that they said anything at all shows that church leadership thinks this is an important moral issue.
    (2) This could have easily been lost in the shuffle during the transition to a new First Presidency. The fact that it wasn’t shows that it’s a priority for church leadership.
    (3) The fact that the throat-clearing bit about nations having the ability to enforce their borders is side-by-side in the same statement as the bit about letting dreamers stay and not splitting up families shows that, contrary to the beliefs I’ve seen expressed by some very politically conservative members, church leadership does not believe that letting dreamers and their families stay is in any way inconsistent with principles of the rule of law.
    (4) This statement, including the bit about letting dreamers stay, is more specific than past statements. The church’s previous statement on immigration said that the church favored policies that would not split up families (you, know, since we believe in defending the family), but I heard some very politically conservative members interpret that to mean that the church favored deporting whole families instead of individuals. This latest statement makes it hard to continue to believe that. It’s a little like the statement in the wake of Charlotte being followed up with the more specific statement calling out nationalism by name.

  12. Paul Ritchey says:

    I suppose that, given history, it’s no surprise that immigration, more than any other issue, keeps the Church from locking step with mainstream conservative politics. Though in recent years, accessory issues (nationalism, racism, religious toleration) are widening the divide (err, fracture). These are exciting times.

  13. Why are people who come here illegally considered to be people of good faith? I wouldn’t dream of going to another country, violating their laws, and expect to be tolerated there. I would expect to be deported. They knew they came here illegally. The “dreamers” should blame parents their parents for getting them into this mess, not Americans who believe laws should be respected.