Church Counsels Against Enforcement-Only Approach to Immigration Reform

About a year ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued a statement affirming principles of a balanced and common-sense approach towards immigration reform. In June 2011, the Church issued a much more specific statement on immigration, specifically calling for “compassion” when considering what to do with the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Naturally, the Church’s new statement counsels members to enter other countries in accordance with immigration laws and affirms the need of any government, including the U.S. Government, to secure their borders and to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering.

However, there are a few things that make the Church’s newer statement particularly noteworthy, placing the Church at odds with most Republicans who believe that anything short of deportation for all 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. is amnesty.

  • The Church uses the term “undocumented immigrant” rather than “illegal immigrant.” Many conservatives, particularly talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, have lambasted Democrats for referring to these individuals as merely “undocumented.” The GOP prefers to use the harsher and more incendiary term “illegal immigrant.”
  • The Church notes that its “bedrock moral issue” concerning the 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. is “how we treat each other as children of God.”
  • The Church asserts that effective and comprehensive immigration reform must happen on a national level.
  • The Church expresses concern that any enforcement-only immigration legislation, particularly on the state level, falls short of our “high moral standard(s).”
  • And perhaps most importantly, the Church supports an approach that allows undocumented immigrants to “square themselves with the law and continue to work” in the U.S.

One thing the Church does not take a position on (wisely in my view) is citizenship. It advocates allowing undocumented immigrants to continue to work in the U.S. without necessarily obtaining citizenship. That is a hotly contentious issue and is not pertinent to the Church’s focus on supporting and strengthening families. I am personally not opposed to a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, but that is far less important than finding a way to rectify the undocumented or illegal status of 12 million U.S. residents, most of whom are otherwise law-abiding and productive.

Some may ask why the Church would speak out on a civic matter like immigration reform when it remains neutral on most political issues. A good number of Church members in the U.S. are undocumented immigrants so any mass-deportation of immigrants would have a profound impact on Church wards and branches. Many families would be split as those born in the U.S. and thus have citizenship would be able to remain while their parents and other relatives would be expelled. The Church does not want to see families forcibly split by the government, as would certainly occur if conservatives in this country had their way with immigration policy. At the heart of the Church’s mission is the family, so any civic matter that impacts the well-being of families is no doubt of concern to the Church, thus that is why I believe the Church is speaking out so directly about immigration reform.

The Church also issued a statement advising members to avoid being “judgmental” with respect to fellow members’ immigration status:

The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood. Bishops are in the best position to make appropriate judgments as to Church privileges. Meanwhile, Church members should avoid making judgments about fellow members in their congregation.

6 Replies to “Church Counsels Against Enforcement-Only Approach to Immigration Reform”

  1. I think this church statement and blog entry highlights another relevant issue for political dialogue among members of the church: our political affiliations are simply choices. Despite what some members might believe, though the church and this blog have continually repeated it, there is no official political party of God or of the church. So as individuals, whether we realize or not, we pick and choose the elements of political platforms we identify with. End of story. Though the church has vocalized its position against enforcement-only approaches to immigration, many church members continue to oppose any kind of immigration legislation that does anything besides deport our ~11 million undocumented immigrants. Though I oppose this view, I respect that its a member’s prerogative to choose their political position. Understanding that being a Mormon republican is as much a choice as being a Mormon Democrat (or socialist or whatever) is fundamental to a respectful political dialogue among church members.

    1. Tim, great comment. Your points really highlight how the church and gospel transcend politics. I’ve always felt that the church and gospel are denigrated when individuals try assert that only a particular political party (they always say its the Republicans) is compatible with the church’s teachings. President Hugh B. Brown’s statement on politics captures the sentiment well: “Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.” No single political party has a monopoly on truth or even good ideas.

  2. Both the LDS and Catholic Churches see this issue as self serving. They too are becoming 3rd World and minority based growth. The big joke with conservative (mean) Mormons is that The Brigham Young lead pioneer party were illegal immigrants pouring into the territory owned by Mexico. They were being watched. Only the Mexican War made them legitimate “citizens” The 12 million “reverse Mormons” are no real problem except to the mean, the self righteous types who would say thesame things about Native Americans from Alaska!

  3. when some one that enters America legally with a Visa they are limited to stay and have to renew there visa”s from teachers to Scientist . They are not allowed amnesty so why should people that came over illegal get amnesty ? When Government allows more refugees and immigrants to enter our work force it adds to unemployment witch keeps the wages low and Jobs scares due to people willing to work for less . Then these people can not be denied family members to migrate to America as well as breed and then Nature born . So within 20 years the population expands every year 15% . That means every year 10 % on Americans will be w/o a job or held in poverty to even our Social Security being abused. Secure our freedom and rights by securing our borders 1st . Government gave an oath to protect American people and the root to there happiness . DO your Job ! who comes first ? So if you are here Illegal you are stealing from others that come to America to educate and Bring respect were respect is due !

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