Friday, June 10, 2011

LDS Church Releases New Statement On Illegal Immigration

The LDS Church has recently released a new statement to the media about its position on illegal immigration: 
Around the world, debate on the immigration question has become intense.  That is especially so in the United States. 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.
As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.
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
As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.
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. 
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. 
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.
This is a surprising statement in light of the LDS Church's agreement with the Utah Compact and with the  Church's previous statement stating that they had no official position on illegal immigration:
Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City, said in an e-mail that elected officials who are Mormons do not represent the position of the church. She said the church has also not taken a position on immigration, which is "clearly the province of government."
"However, Church leaders have urged compassion and careful reflection when addressing immigration issues affecting millions of people," she said in the e-mail.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind the Church's change on its position of illegal immigration is the fact that an LDS Bishop in Utah was arrested for illegal immigration
A branch president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was arrested and jailed for suspicion of illegal immigration.

Felix Joaquin Callejas-Hernandez and his family were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on April 19 in Draper.  President Callejas-Hernandez and his family was booked into the Utah County Jail.  His wife and two teenage children were released April 22.  Felix remains in jail as the deportation process continues.
However, this arrest didn't come out of the blue. It came after they had refused a judge's order for them to be deported a few years ago:
Haley said Callejas’ wife had been ordered deported by a federal immigration judge in 2008. The rest of the family had been ordered deported in 2009.
Haley said all had filed appeals with the Board of Immigration Appeals, which dismissed their cases earlier this month.
The arrest highlighted the Church's "don't ask, don't tell" policy in which it turns a blind eye to members who enter the country illegally and many cases, like this bishop, who defy a judge's order to leave the country.  Not only do they turn a blind eye to it, but they allow members to hold leadership positions, serve missions and enter the temple. 
The LDS Church wants to keep this policy going as long as possible. They are trying to have it both ways in which they demand members of the Church to obey the laws of the land yet insist that members and non-members should have compassion on illegals for choosing to break the law.  An organization cannot simultaneously ask members to obey the law but permit some members to break the law and be in good standing with the that organization. Period. 
But then again, some LDS leaders don't view illegal immigration as a criminal activity:  One general authority said that there was nothing inherently wrong about illegal immigration and compared it to a civil trespass: 
"The church's view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass," said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, relating it to coming onto someone's property uninvited. "There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status."
Illegal Immigration is not the same as a civil trespass. Illegal immigration, by definition, is a crime. Regardless if its on the books or not, illegal immigration is inherently a criminal activity because its not private property that a person is crossing but an international border and they're entering the country without the government's permission.  
This new statement is a big improvement from its prior official position on illegal immigration. However, until the Church has an coherent and consistent policy on illegal immigration, LDS Church will face more embarrassing arrests. It will also continue to divide the Church among its members and leadership. It will continue to hold contradictory teachings and practices. 

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