Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Analyzing the Mormon position

This will be lengthy and a bit painful (at least for me), but I think it best to put it in one place.

On June 10, 2011 the LDS Church issued a press release regarding its position on immigration.  The full text can be read here.

Is it authoritative?
Well, there can be no doubt that it is a genuine Church press release.  They weren't punked.  And it was not crafted off the reservation.  The Brethren had a hand in it for sure.

Beyond that, it is simply a political statement to address a political problem, timed just a week before the Utah GOP Convention.  The Church has in the past issued canonical statements called "Official Declarations" regarding polygamy (1890) and the priesthood for those of African descent (1978).  In both cases they were announced and explained by the Prophet, widely publicized as such, voted on by the Conference and published in the scriptures.

(As an aside, we sometimes assume something is as good as scripture, only to find that it is not.  For 15 years Mormons have considered "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" to be revelation.  Last October, after a flap over a speech given by President Packer in Conference, his remarks were edited from this: "The Family: A Proclamation to the World..qualifies according to scriptural definition as a revelation."
...to this: "a guide that members of the church would do well to read and to follow.")

The church could have, and might yet someday, issue a statement from the pulpit that directly addresses the question of immigration.  To date they have not, yet they are getting more bold all the time.

Problems with the content
Most Americans agree that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants. Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.
To that assessment I would say we have long ago reached that destabilized point.  At the low-ball estimate of 12 million, illegal aliens represent ONE THIRD of all the foreign-born inhabitants of the United States.  And keep in mind that millions more once were illegal but were granted some form of amnesty along the way.  HALF of all immigrants alive today either are or once were illegal aliens.  HALF!  Add to that 4 million anchor babies.  And with 6 million illegal aliens working, they make up 4-5% of the workforce.  May I then edit the press release thus: "Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize has destabilized society and ultimately has become unsustainable."

What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate.  The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God. 

The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved.  This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.

This is a villainous characterization.  It conjures up images of gassed Kurds or mass expulsions and murders in Kosovo and Bosnia and the violence of Kristallnacht.  Let's be honest here; there has been more violence over teacher benefits in Madison, Wisconsin than there has by anti-illegal alien advocates in the entire State of Utah.  The church cries out for civility when what they really want is silence.  Is it uncivil to demand that our government stop coddling and start enforcing the law?

The Church statement above also attempts to play the race card with their "mostly from one heritage," comment.  Every source I've read confirms that 75-80% of all illegal aliens are from Latin America.  That is a demographic fact.  It is only natural for Latino activists to pretend the issue is racial in nature, but when three out of four illegal aliens are Hispanic they are going to feel most of the pressure.  DUH!

The sad part is that legitimate enforcement efforts like 287g and local police stops have been gutted over false accusation of racial profiling.  The truth is, they work TOO well when it comes to identifying illegal aliens.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God. 

Another straw man is being propped up here.  Getting caught breaking the law does tend to disrupt your life and that of your family.  Our nation and the State of Utah have a long history of fairness and upholding human rights.  When someone is deported they are given opportunities for appeals, treated humanely in detention facilities and returned to their hometowns at our expense.  They are not rounded up in the middle of the night and transported to the nearest border in cattle cars.

The Church has long taught accountability for our own actions, and yet this flies in the face of that teaching.  

Such a statement also begs the question of treatment of other violators of the law.  People are arrested all the time.  Are they not separated from their families?  Do they not suffer the consequences of their punishment?  How does "the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God," apply to the arrest and detention of other people in jail? 

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. 

OK.  There are on the books laws about immigration violations.  For example, unlawful presence calls for removal from the country.  That is the law of the land.  That is how you "square" yourself with the law in this case.  What's wrong with that?
What the Church is calling for here is a guest worker program similar to Utah's HB116, the very source of the controversy.  Note that HB116, if it survives the recall movement and the constitutionality test, won't take effect for a couple of years.  Meanwhile, the law of the land is deportation.

The phrase "...without this necessarily leading to citizenship," is a bit humorous.  The Church seems to be ambivalent about loyalty to our nation as long as illegal aliens get to work here.  They obviously understand that naturalization rates are pathetically low and they aren't going out on a limb to promote it.

In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family, and its commitment to law.

And their last paragraph adds the Mormon voice to the call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  The Church doesn't at any point call for stronger enforcement of the law in an effort to give people the opportunity "to square themselves with the law" through self-deportation.

As I said at the outset, the press release was a political document issued for political persuasion.  FYI, the Utah GOP convention voted to repeal HB116, choosing good public policy over the dramatic recommendations of the Church.

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