Another Reason Why Church Members Should Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

April 26, 2009 | 104 comments
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Last year, several General Authorities, including Elders M. Russell Ballard and Marlin K. Jensen, waded into the immigration debate in an attempt to influence and moderate the policies being discussed. Given the large number of undocumented immigrants in the Church, especially out West, and the dramatic effect that immigration crackdowns have on our membership, the reason for such action is understandable. In recent weeks, additional developments underscore why, in my mind, Church members ought to support comprehensive immigration reform that, while seeking to better secure our borders and enforce immigration law, also allows otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are currently here a chance to normalize their status.

Last week, an undocumented immigrant missionary returning from his mission was detained at a Cincinnati airport “lacking necessary documentation to board his flight home.” In the wake of this, Church leaders decided to have another undocumented immigrant finishing his mission in Oklahoma drive home to Salt Lake with his uncle rather than fly.

Undocumented immigrants are able to serve missions because of a narrow exception the Church lobbied Senator Bob Bennett to add to an agricultural spending bill in 2005. The exception exempts religious organizations like the Church from liability for, among other things, having undocumented immigrants provide charitable and religious volunteer service.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in the Salt Lake Tribune article linked to above, acknowledged the risks that undocumented immigrants still face in choosing to serve missions. “They go knowing themselves that they’re at risk, and nothing in our mission call changes that. They know that, and we know that, and we work within those parameters to have them be constructive, honorable, faithful, spiritual, religious emissaries for that period of service.” In sending undocumented immigrants on missions, Elder Holland stressed that the Church is trying to “be more precise, if we can, about how to help, how to make [a mission] the calmest, most spiritually rewarding experience for everybody.” Holland noted that the Church’s interest was to ensure that young Latter-day Saints of all backgrounds have the opportunity to enjoy the spiritual benefits of serving a mission because “a mission is so fundamental to our blessings.”

One of the many problems that a comprehensive approach to federal immigration reform would address is the uncertainty and risk posed to the undocumented youth of the Church who want to serve missions. These young immigrants typically bear little to no culpability for the situations they find themselves in and often have a stronger connection to the United States than anywhere else. Allowing them a chance to normalize their statuses as part of the push to reform our federal immigration laws would ease significant burdens for both the Church and its membership and enable youth to enjoy the blessings of a mission without risk of arrest and detainment.

104 Responses to Another Reason Why Church Members Should Support Comprehensive Immigration Reform

  1. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    After confronting an immigration situation in my ward here in New York, I believe that most members simply don’t have any idea about the details of immigration law, how immigration enforcement works, or the way that detained immigrants are treated.

    For those that are interested, I think I can imagine what this poor missionary has been treated to, assuming that the Church hasn’t figured out how to get him out of detention and that his treatment is similar to what happens here in New York City.

    • First, he was probably held locally for a short period (a few days) and then transported to one of the 22 Federal detention centers, processing centers and detention facilities. The closest facility to Cincinnatti is in Buffalo, New York, but the facility could be literally anywhere in the U.S. The location of parents, family and those who might help him is irrelevant to where.
    • In processing this missionary, all his clothing, including garments, were taken from him and he was given a prison-style uniform color-coded by how dangerous he is believed to be.
    • All his possessions have been taken from him, held pending his deportation, when they will be returned to him.
    • He must pay for any luxuries he receives, like standard toothpaste instead of powder, at higher than market rates, with money that can only be provided by family and friends outside of the detention center. If they can’t reach the center to provide those funds, he will have to go without the “luxuries.”
    • He will be fed a diet heavy on starch and carbs. If he is fortunate, he will have fresh fruit once a week and a vegetale once a month.
    • Should visitors come to see him, they will have to go through a process that takes 4 hours or more in order to see him for 1/2 hour.
    • He will sleep in a room with many other men in the same situation, who have been in detention for months or even more than a year. The lights in the room will never be turned out completely for securities reasons. If he is a sensitive or light sleeper, he will not get much sleep.
    • While called detention centers, there is little to distinguish these facilities from prisons, including viciting facilities that put thick, bullet-proof glass between the detainee and any visitors
    • He will tend to lose track of time in the facility, since there are no clocks or calendars.
    • If he is fortunate, the facility will have windows that he can look out to get a glimpse of what freedom looks like. He won’t be able to go out.
    • There is more, of course. But in general the nature of these facilities seems set up to put psychological pressure on detainees to voluntarily leave. Of course, they are told regularly that they can get out of detention any time they want, but just agreeing to be sent back to their home country.

      I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to undergo this kind of detention, uncertain of how long it will last.

  2. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Another interesting aspect of this is an estimate of how many missionaries might be involved.

    There are approximately 700 Spanish-speaking LDS congregations in the U.S. Assuming they average as many missionaries in the field as the average congregation, this means about 1,400 missionaries from Spanish-speaking congregations. I don’t know how often Spanish-speaking missionaries from the US are undocumented, but I assume that it is about 50%, leaving about 700 undocumented missionaries, or approximately 7 in each mission in the U.S. at any one time.

    While the number of undocumented missionaries is only a little more than 1% of the total number of missionaries, the gross number and the extreme consequences when missionaries are detained, this is a significant potential problem.

  3. Mark B. on April 26, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    If this young missionary’s only legal problem is his lack of documentation, there is at least a fighting chance that he will be able to post a bond and be released from detention. If, on the other hand, he has ever had a criminal conviction, or if he has ever been ordered deported from the United States (and either failed to leave or returned again, without inspection, after a deportation) then he will likely be held in a jail, like a convicted prisoner, with men who are in fact criminals, until his case is heard and he is either released or deported.

    In addition to the difficulties of distance, which will make visits difficult, his family probably have immigration issues of their own, which make it unlikely that they would want to go into an immigration detention facility to visit their son/brother.

    And we pretend that our laws are just.

  4. Tim on April 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Kent,
    I think it’s probably around half that; I think about 50% of Spanish-speaking missionaries in the US actually speak English as a first language, and learned Spanish in the MTC. Of those 50% that are native Spanish speakers, perhaps half are not here legally (although the percentage may be greater), cutting the number down to 350.

  5. Huston on April 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    My conservative political principles dictate that I should be anti-illegal immigration, and I basically am–it has numerous negative consequences, and the twelfth Article of Faith has something to say about the rule of law.

    That being said, if I’m going to expect my faithful, liberal friends to reject the socially immoral aspects that are attached to the left as they pursue their vision for how government should work, I certainly also need to be willing to modify my hardline stances when the Church is going in a different direction. As linked above, that seems to be the case here. So, since loyalty to the Church is a higher priority than political positions, I’m open to ideas for immigration reform.

    Besides, as I showed on my own blog recently, the mass infusion of good Hispanic people into the United States may well be in fulfillment of Book of Mormon prophecy. If so, it would seem to be a good trend to get behind.

  6. Tim on April 26, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    On the other hand, we’re not in a Spanish-speaking ward, and we still have Spanish-speaking missionaries; if that’s not too unusual, or if Spanish-speaking congregations get assigned a higher percentage of native Spanish-speaking missionaries, my numbers could be way off.
    Forget I said anything.

  7. frankg on April 26, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    People need to settle their immigration status before they’re detained. Yes, we need reform, when is it going to happen, what form will it finally take, who knows. But look around whats happening in the world now.
    Swine flu, document theft, terrorist plans to infiltrate this country (again), drug smuggling and kidnapping cells growing in the US.
    But…I can’t complain (as a citizen) about being stripped searched after being caught speeding through a school zone thats been plagued by speeders for years. My family will face complications if they can’t visit me because they have not paid their federal taxes for several years, and don’t want to walk into a holding facility where their background may be checked. If they’re apprehended, what is done about their young kids, if there’s no extended family, etc. etc? The law is so complicated or the people who choose not to live by it. And their choices have consequences on dependents.
    Over the years I’ve met people who seemed normal but turned out to be chronic speeders. I’ve met people who havn’t paid taxes for years, and don’t know what to do. Reform is okay, maybe even amnesty, show me the fine print.
    I’ve also heard from legal spouses of undocumented, I think they said they can’t get cooperation from foreign bureaucracies, very inefficient, they didn’t want to go back for some reason (they told me why but I don’t remember what it was). Sure, let’s find a solution for that.
    Then I suspect there are other groups that just have an investment in a dy$functional immigration system, before and after reform.

  8. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    frankg wrote: “People need to settle their immigration status before they’re detained.”

    Um, have you tried to do that with anyone?

    My friend, the case we have in our ward, was detained BECAUSE he went in to settle his immigration status!!

    People attempting to settle their immigration status is one of the chief sources of detention!!!!

  9. Geoff B on April 26, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Marc, I agree with your position on this issue.

  10. Mark B. on April 26, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Scratch the surface and before you know it, rank ignorance pops out.

    Nobody has to deal with a foreign bureaucracy to get a U.S. visa–it’s our wonderful home-grown bureaucracy that applicants for visas have to deal with.

    And it’s not the bureaucracy that’s the worst sticking point. It’s the idiotic law. One of the worst provisions of that law: it bars anyone who has been in this country unlawfully for more than one year after his or her 18th birthday from re-entering for 10 years. It doesn’t matter if they’re married to a U.S. citizen. It doesn’t matter if they have five U.S. citizen children. If they step outside the U.S., they’re barred from re-entry for 10 years, unless they can show “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent–hardship to the kids doesn’t matter.

    In one of the great instances of the law of unintended consequences, this horrid provision has had exactly the opposite effect from that intended by Congress–it has increased the number of those unlawfully present, because it’s too risky to keep crossing the border since getting caught means risking a 10-year bar, so people who used to migrate back and forth across the border come, bring their families, and stay.

    By the way, Huston, my conservative political principles dictate that I should support broadly liberal immigration policy. Open borders means a free labor market–shouldn’t conservatives believe in the free movement of labor, just as in the free movement of capital? Furthermore, this nation in the past has assimilated millions of immigrants, and conservatism would suggest maintaining the same policies that made us great.

  11. James on April 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    There is no non-political reason that prevents all of the issues from being resolved all at the same time. In that process, though, in order for there to be justice, some people are going to have to pay penalties of one sort or another. The adults who came into this country and the people who hired them knowing that they were here illegally need to pay some sort of penalty in order for justice to be served. In my mind the employers deserve the more severe penalty, but the people who crossed have to pay a price as well. This is a political reality. Find the penalty that will satisfy public demand for justice and not be too onerous for the border crossers and you will go down in history as the greatest compromise builder since Henry Clay.

  12. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    James wrote “in order for there to be justice, some people are going to have to pay penalties of one sort or another.”

    Well, James, I think that assumes that the law is just in the first place. You are right in the case of a just law–the solution is that violators need to pay penalties.

    But in the case of an injust law, the solution is to change the law, and ignore penalties.

    As I have maintained here on Times and Seasons before, the immigration laws are by nature NOT JUST. These laws favor some people over others based on what those people can not control — where they were born.

  13. Bookslinger on April 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Just a point of history: The last time amnesty was tried, back in the 80′s under Reagan’s administration, the direct result was that illegal immigration from Mexico skyrocketed. It illustrated the principle that if you reward something, you get more of it.

    I was for amnesty back then in the 80′s. But the problem was that the border wasn’t sealed to prevent further illegal immigration. Another round of amnesty now, without sealing the border, would only be asking for another huge increase in illegal immigration. Does anyone learn from history?

  14. aloysiusmiller on April 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I am a supporter of generous legal immigration aimed at bringing in workers we need and their immediate families. I am completely against amnesty.

    I am dismayed at the church’s position on illegal immigration. I believe that disrespect for the authority of just laws is insidious and affects respect for church authority.

  15. Bookslinger on April 26, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Kent, what do you think of those studies that show that the social and criminal-justice related costs of illegals far exceed their economic contribution? IE, the claim that the taxes contributed by the whole of the illegal demographic come no where near equalling the police, court, jail, prison, and social costs (educating children, welfare, WIC, food stamps, ER treatments, financial losses to crime victims) incurred by the minority criminal element within that demographic?

  16. James on April 26, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Kent – While you are satisfied with the conviction that current immigration law is unjust, that is not the opinion of the majority in this country. They demand a penalty that is onerous enough to satisfy their demand for justice. That means that if you really want some kind if reform, it is going to have to include a penalty that is stiff enough to satisfy the will of the people and not so onerous that the offenders will be unwilling to undergo it to get a more permanent status. That will be the great political compromise of this generation if anyone can pull it off.

  17. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Bookslinger (15), I can’t claim to be very familiar with them. If someone can point me to where I can look at the whole study (including the all-important methodology section), I’d be happy to take a look.

    To be honest, I also have not looked at the studies out there that claim the opposite — that illegal immigrants contribute more than the cost to society.

    I suspect that the studies cited by both positions are likely to have some kind of bias. But since I haven’t really studied either side, I can’t claim this as a basis for my beliefs.

    My position isn’t based on economic costs, however. It is based on my perception of the ethics of the situation.

    After all, if a situation is not ethical, why should the economic costs matter? There was economic benefit to slavery, and an economic cost to ending it. Should people in the pre-civil war US have based their positions solely on the economics of the question?

  18. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    BTW, Bookslinger, in 13 you assume 1st that someone here has argued for amnesty (I didn’t see that specifically sought, although I think I favor it) and 2nd that there has been some logical basis for deciding how many legal immigrants we allow (there isn’t) and 3rd that the 1980s amnesty actually led to more immigration that wouldn’t have come anyway (there isn’t any way to know–it is very possible that the immigrants would have come anyway).

    Most importantly, your comment assumes that the laws about immigration are good, desirable laws. I don’t think they are. If you think I’m incorrect, please tell me why.

    Why is it that we who happened to be born in the US deserve the opportunities available here, while those who weren’t born here do not? Obviously, we didn’t do anything to deserve to be born here (at least not anything that can be known in mortality), nor did those born outside of the US do anything to deserve to be born in their native countries.

    Why should the opportunities we have in the US be restricted on the basis of something no one can control?

  19. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    aloysiusmiller (14) wrote:

    I am dismayed at the church’s position on illegal immigration. I believe that disrespect for the authority of just laws is insidious and affects respect for church authority.

    Really? “Dismayed at the church’s position” on something? Isn’t that the road to Apostacy? Thinking you know better than the brethren and then preaching it here? [GRIN]

    Seriously, AM, don’t you believe that bad laws should be opposed, and that there is a role for civil disobedience to seek change in those laws? Or that disrespect for a bad law is the proper response in some cases?

  20. Aloysiusmiller on April 26, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Very smug of you Kent

  21. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    AM, I don’t think I’m making this personal. Why are you? I’m simply addressing the logical arguments.

    I’m sorry if you think I’m being smug. I disagree. I’m not saying that I’m better than anyone else for any reason. I am saying that there is a role for civil disobedience. I admit that I’ve never actually participated in civil disobedience–but this immigration issue and the way that ICE and the entire system treats people is making it increasingly likely that I will participate.

    I don’t think I have anything to take pride in here, so I can’t see smug.

  22. Aloysiusmiller on April 26, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Levi Savage told the handcart pioneers who were being urged on by an Apostle that they would be reckless to start so late. But he went with them. I am on the journey even when my mind says a mistake is being made.

  23. Aloysiusmiller on April 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Our comments crossed. You don’t think your allusion to apostacy wasn’t a tad self-righteous?

  24. John on April 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    There’s nothing on the Deseret News website about this. “Some things that are true are not very useful.”

    But there’s a story at the Tribune website. With comments, as you can imagine.

  25. Mark Brown on April 26, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I am not only dismayed but also shocked and appalled that the church has apparently gotten into bed with a Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal. Does the rule of law mean nothing? Truly these are times in which the very elect have been deceived. What’s next, general authorities saying Hay-zoos in conference?

    That flushing sound you hear is what used to be called the Grand Old Party, well on its way to permanent minority status as well as a laughingstock and butt of richly-deserved jokes.

  26. Alison Moore Smith on April 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants

    Marc, this is where things start to break down for me. Are illegal immigrants, generally speaking, “otherwise law abiding”?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that illegal status isn’t just a matter of sneaking across the border one day on a whim. It seems to require ongoing, deliberate, calculated deception and often further illegal activity.

    Last year a plant in Lindon, Utah, was raided and the illegals all arrested. Over half of them had stolen identities. Having my own identity stolen by an illegal in 2005 (in, I’m sure, a mild case) I’ve lost over $5,000 (in tax refunds, no less) and a great deal of time, stress, and pain. And it’s still not worked out.

    Last summer my college daughter was broadsided (in the less-than-one-year-old car she saved for and bought herself) by an unlicensed, uninsured illegal immigrant. Not a victimless situation for a kid who’s paying her own way through college.

    As far as I an tell, those who disregard immigration laws often disregard others that don’t suit their agendas, as well.

  27. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Mark Brown (25), is your tongue stuck in your cheek? Or are you serious?

    I’m having a hard time figuring ou what exactly the “Hate America anti-Christian Open Borders cabal is! Who is in this organization? Aren’t the constituent pieces mutually exclusive in some respects? I don’t know about the rest, but from what I’ve seen few people are actually for completely open borders, and many that want less restrictive immigration laws are anything but “Hate America anti-Christian.”

    I don’t understand!

  28. NOYDMB on April 26, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Adam abandoned T&S and the liberals run amok.

  29. Geoff B on April 26, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Alison, I don’t want to underplay the seriousness of somebody who steals an identity, but there is a relatively easy solution to this, which is to allow people to immigrate her more easily and then prosecute those who steal identities. They are separate issues that have been linked by our crazy immigration laws.

    I would like to assure readers that there is still a small group of conservatives who support immigration and reforming our absurd immigration laws. It is led intellectually by the Wall Street Journal, where you can read this excellent column that points out that a recession is the perfect time to invite new people with new ideas and energy into the United States:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124078847516857485.html

    I am extremely proud of the Church’s position on immigration. It seems both humane and a recognition that we are an international church with a charge to bring to Gospel to all humanity, not just the people who happen to live behind certain national borders.

  30. Kent Larsen on April 26, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Alison (26), the broadside could have happened, and often does happen from, citizens as well as illegal immigrants.

    As for the stolen IDs, I don’t think that is the best example of illegal activity for your point, since it isn’t independent of their illegal status.

    We’ve made it so hard for illegal immigrants to get work that they basically have to steal IDs to get past the restrictions.

    We would be better off addressing the reason why they need to come and the reason why they need to steal IDs when we try to solve the problem. All our beefing up of security on the border doesn’t seem to have worked.

    As for disregarding the law, I think that there have been a number of people that we praise who have disregarded immoral laws. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, those that ran the underground railway before the civil war, etc.

    The problem with the “make the laws and enforcement stricter” approach that you seem to advocate (please correct me if I’m wrong) is two fold. 1, it doesn’t work and puts people in ever more difficult quandries, and 2, it ignores the questionable morals of the law.

  31. Steve Evans on April 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    “As far as I an tell, those who disregard immigration laws often disregard others that don’t suit their agendas, as well.”

    Wow, Alison. As far as I can tell, those who write conservative comments also eat babies, as well.

    Listen to yourselves people!!

  32. Follow the money on April 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    What’s going to happen when the newly-amnestied immigrants that hit Allison start paying for car insurance?

    They will ask for higher salaries to pay for that car insurance.

    Then what will happen?

    The Republicans that employ the amnesty recipients will lay them off and bring in a new set of undocumented immigrants.

  33. Mark Ping on April 26, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    You know where liars go, right? They’re thrust down to hell.

    The term “undocumented immigrant” is a made-up phrase by liars, trying to subvert the rule of law. I’m stunned that such ridiculous terms used by lying politicians should be adopted by anyone who believes in truth.

  34. Mark Brown on April 26, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Kent, yes, that was meant as a joke.

    That’s the sad thing though, isn’t it? I try to make a comment that is totally outrageous and over the top, but it’s hard to tell the difference between an intentional joke and some of these commenters who are dead serious.

    I also agree with NOYDMB. The liberals have taken over around here. You need to get more people like him and aloysiusmiller. That will make for a truly enlightening and fascinating study in anthropology, not to mention a testimony-building blogging experience.

  35. Ryan on April 26, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    We’ve made it so hard for illegal immigrants to get work that they basically have to steal IDs to get past the restrictions.

    That’s right! Not to mention how difficult we’ve made it for crime syndicates to spend their drug revenues. They basically have to launder it through shell companies to get past the restrictions. They are the victims of a prejudiced society, they’re being repressed!!

  36. Steven on April 26, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Kent Larson, if the immigration laws are unjust because they treat people differently for something they can’t control – where they were born, then are marriage laws unjust because they treat people differently based on gender?

  37. queuno on April 27, 2009 at 12:05 am

    I just think it’s funny watching the ultraright wet themselves over the fact that their Church leadership is not as conservative as they are…

  38. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Alison – When I say “otherwise law-abiding,” I mean that most undocumented immigrants are hard-working, productive members of society outside of violations relating to their status. I echo Geoff B’s comments above in not wanting to underplay the seriousness of identity theft, but I don’t think the large majority of undocumented immigrants who come to the United States are conspiring to steal identities. In seeking to work, some immigrants might pay to secure documentation that will allow them to do so, but I don’t think this makes them criminal minds or somehow indicates a greater propensity for law-breaking. They largely are people struggling to secure better futures for themselves and their families. Certainly there are some bad apples among them, but not at any ratio greater than the public at large — and few would argue that these individuals shouldn’t be incarcerated and/or deported. The real key distinction here for me is the difference between violations of law that are malum in se (inherently wrong) and malum prohibitum (wrong because they are prohibited). This is a distinction the Church has honed in on as well, with Elder Marlin K. Jensen last year stating that “the church’s view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass. There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status.” In this context, I find the Lord’s admonition through Moses to the Israelites in Leviticus 19:33-34 pretty persuasive:

    33 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
    34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

  39. Mark Ping on April 27, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Uh, it’s the ultraright that pays attention to the rule of law? It’s the ultraright that thinks words and laws mean something?

    I guess you’re right. It’s not abortion, it’s choice.

    It’s not global warming or cooling, it’s “change.”

    The correct legal term is “illegal alien” anything else is pushing an agenda.

  40. Mark Ping on April 27, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Yah, that advice was back when Israel was a nation-state. Last I checked, Leviticus doesn’t run the country.

  41. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:25 am

    “The correct legal term is “illegal alien” anything else is pushing an agenda.”

    I think insisting others use a term of art that serves your own agenda is what actually constitutes “pushing an agenda.”

  42. Mark Ping on April 27, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Um, no that’s the actual legal term. Making another term up is pushing the agenda.

  43. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Mark Ping – To this point, you’ve avoided addressing Elder Holland’s interview remarks that were the focal point of this post. You also appear to be pushing a hardline view that some might see as difficult to square with numerous public statements and actions from Church leaders and spokesmen (see, e.g., this prior post that I linked to earlier). Rather than lash out at commenters with whom you may disagree, you might want to start with explaining how you make sense of these rather moderate stances by those in a position to speak for the Church.

    In re 42, “undocumented immigrant” is an actual legal term.

  44. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 12:54 am

    I don’t care what Holland said about illegal aliens. He’s not my political leader. And while I’ll take his spiritual advice into account. I don’t care what he says politcally.

    Furthermore, you are perpetuating the lie that somehow people immigrate in an undocumented way. Sorry, they’re aliens (non-citizens), and they’re in the country illegally. Immigration is a legal process that they’ve ignored.

  45. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Quite frankly, I don’t know what the Church was doing allowing a law-breaker to serve a mission.

    What other outstanding crimes can I commit and still serve a mission?

  46. Mark Brown on April 27, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Littering and walking across the neighbor’s grass come to mind. Also, having overdue library books, driving with a broken taillight, and jaywalking. I have seen missionaries jaywalk right in front of the MTC. They call themselves servants of the Lord (as if!!!!!) and yet flaunt the law like common criminals. Have they no shame?

  47. Dan on April 27, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Mark,

    Quite frankly, I don’t know what the Church was doing allowing a law-breaker to serve a mission.

    That’s a great question to ask of your stake president.

  48. Ray on April 27, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Interesting. 47 comments, and only one or two mention the young man sitting in a detention center and wonder how he is doing.

    I know this young man. He was a Zone Leader in our stake when he left to return home and was arrested. He is an amazing person and and incredible missionary (truly a spiritual giant), and, unless it was arranged specially, he still is a full-time missionary – since his Stake President probably hasn’t released him. I’ll probably find out Thursday, at our stake Missionary Committee Meeting.

    Just want to let everyone know that this is an actual person in this situation – that it’s a little more than an academic debate. Last I heard, he was teaching the discussions to an inmate in the county jail where he initially was being held, but when the authorities found out they moved the other inmate away from him. Nothing like enforcing a little religious oppression while we confine him to his cell.

    Remember, every time you blithely dismiss all people in his situation as criminals and probably worse criminals in the future, you are perpetuating a stereotype and overlooking the paradox of this actual case – that this young man really is a fabulous person, an incredible missionary and a stunningly Godly man.

    Ah, who cares? He’s undocumented. Burn him. Burn them all.

  49. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 3:17 am

    He’s not “undocumented” — he’s an illegal alien. No one is chanting “burn him” except you.

    It’s a crying shame his leaders put him in this situation.

  50. Ray on April 27, 2009 at 4:12 am

    My biggest problem with the whole “the Church supports or encourages illegal immigration” charge is that it’s so ridiculous. The Church teaches and preaches and baptizes and ordains and sends on missions in and from every country where it is allowed to do so. It adds to its membership wherever the people are who want to join its ranks. Here in America, it’s not breaking ANY law in doing so – not one.

    Furthermore, it no longer baptizes in other countries and then encourages members to come here – legally or illegally. It actually encourages them to stay in their native lands and build the kingdom there. Think about that: It actually discourages organized, large-scale immigration of any kind.

    How in the word that can be termed as “supporting” or “encouraging” illegal immigration baffles me. These people are already here. The Church didn’t bring them here or influence their decision in any way . . . I simply don’t see “support” or “encouragement” for illegal immigration going on. I see serving God’s children wherever they live and letting governments enforce their regulations and laws.

  51. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Mark Brown (34) wrote: “I also agree with NOYDMB. The liberals have taken over around here. You need to get more people like him and aloysiusmiller.”

    We are always looking for good bloggers, ones who will fit well with the T&S group. We welcome people of every viewpoint, as long as they are willing to follow the comment guidelines (which is basically the same requirements we have for posts). We value well-thought arguments and well-expressed sentiment of any viewpoint, so long as they are expressed in a civil manner.

    I don’t know what else I can say about it. We truly are NOT looking to make T&S a “liberal” blog or a blog that follows any particular political opinion.

  52. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Ryan wrote:

    We’ve made it so hard for illegal immigrants to get work that they basically have to steal IDs to get past the restrictions.

    That’s right! Not to mention how difficult we’ve made it for crime syndicates to spend their drug revenues. They basically have to launder it through shell companies to get past the restrictions. They are the victims of a prejudiced society, they’re being repressed!!

    Except that there is a huge difference in motivations here.

    Ever read Les Miserable?

  53. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 6:07 am

    Steven (36) wrote:

    Kent Larson, if the immigration laws are unjust because they treat people differently for something they can’t control – where they were born, then are marriage laws unjust because they treat people differently based on gender?

    Please spell my name correctly!!

    Clever, but I’m not interested in debating the ssm thing here (and really not too interested in the issue at all).

    I will say that there is a huge difference between the moral issues at stake in each case. In the case of immigration, I don’t remember any biblical or prophetic prohibition against the underlying act they want to take, i.e., crossing borders, but I’m fairly sure there is a long understanding that one of the principle underlying acts for same sex marriage, i.e., sex with someone of your same gender, is a sin.

    I don’t quite see comparing the two as legitimate.

  54. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Mark (44) wrote:

    I don’t care what Holland said about illegal aliens. He’s not my political leader. And while I’ll take his spiritual advice into account. I don’t care what he says politcally.

    I wasn’t aware that we can pick and choose which advice from the brethren we will follow and which we will ignore. I seem to remember several talks from General Authorities suggesting that the Prophet and the Brethren CAN and should speak on political issues when they feel it is important and a moral issue.

    And, for what its worth, Elder Jensen last February said that immigration IS a moral issue.

    Furthermore, you are perpetuating the lie that somehow people immigrate in an undocumented way. Sorry, they’re aliens (non-citizens), and they’re in the country illegally. Immigration is a legal process that they’ve ignored.

    And you are “perpetrating the lie” that this is a realistic option, that those who seek immigration to the U.S. can do so in a reasonably timely manner without any bureaucratic delays. In fact, those who try this route often wait DECADES to come to the U.S., and if they have minor children, those minors can AGE OUT of the process, and have to start from the beginning because they turned 21 (or 18, I don’t know which is the cut off).

  55. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Ray (48) wrote: “only one or two mention the young man sitting in a detention center and wonder how he is doing.”

    For the record, Ray, I am very interested in how he is doing. My comment above (#1) showed some of what he may have gone through, but that is based on what I’ve seen here in NYC.

    I had hoped, as Mark B. suggested in #3, that he would have been able to post bond and return home. But your comment makes it sound like he is still being detained.

    I don’t know if I’m very different from others, but I would dearly love to be able to follow the details of what happens to this missionary. I pray that the Lord will bless him and help him to weather what is a very difficult ordeal.

    I don’t know about others here, but I will be calling my Congressman and Senators today to complain about the STUNNING lack of discretion ICE has shown in this case.

  56. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Mark in 49 wrote: “It’s a crying shame his leaders put him in this situation.”

    Yes, It’s a crying shame that our political leaders passed immoral laws that put him in this position.

  57. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 6:52 am

    #48 Ray – Thanks for your update on the young man detained in Cincinnati. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.

  58. L-d Sus on April 27, 2009 at 7:44 am

    #58 beat me to the inevitable comparison between this and SSM (a slippery slope to be sure).

    The snarky part of me wants to invoke the 12th AoF and suggest that we should support the law in Vermont regarding SSM. Don’t we have any respect for the rule of law? Or just respect for the laws that fit within our personal political framework?

  59. Geoff B on April 27, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Ray, thanks for reminding us that there are actual human beings involved her, not statistics and horrible “law-breakers.”. Anybody familiar with our ridiculous immigration laws realizes accusing these people of being horrible law-breakers ignores the complexities involved. Jail the jay-walkers!

  60. Steven on April 27, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Kent, I apologize for the mistake. I meant no disrespect. I understand there may be other issues in the comparison of same sex marriage and illegal immigration, but based solely on the principle of justice that you brought up, I don’t see the difference. You say it’s based solely on something they can’t control, and gender and birth location both qualify. So I am just arguing that it’s not as simple as you initially said. It has to fit this form of justice AND follow other principles? I believe you’re also arguing about the good (or maybe the right) of immigration? Otherwise it would be a neutral issue .

    As to this young man, what are the options? Does he have a future in the US? Can he legally get a (good) job? I agree there is need for immigration reform. But unless something changes, he has to lie in order to get a good job here. Is that really a good future for him? He will be in jeopardy here forever.

    I have no desire to burn him. The way it’s been described, if he agrees to go back to whatever country he was born, he will be quickly released. This is not a case of waterboarding or something (though conditions may not be good I hear no accusations of torture in these places). But I ask: if I am a good person but I break one law, I put myself in jeopardy. Yes, you may bring up something like jaywalking or speeding. But when people do those things, they usually are willing to accept possible consequences. Are we saying we don’t want people to accept the consequences of illegal immigration? Elder Holland said that these missionaries DO accept possible consequences.

    I don’t buy the argument that his parents bought him here and he has no responsibility. When he came to understood his status, he could make a (very difficult) choice. He is now in violation of the law. I am sorry. I am sometimes in violation of the law. I accept that there may be consequences.

  61. bbell on April 27, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I am with Ray. I care more about the elder then the immigration laws. If I was in a position to help him I would. As LDS folks our loyalty should be to this elder. He just put aside his life and went and served the kingdom. Most likely he left on his mission when he was 19 and most likely his parents brought him here when he was 2-17. He is not exactly a serious criminal since he was a minor when he made his illegal entry most likely.

    I wonder what the long term implications will be for illegal immigrants and the missionary program. This may force a change for illegal immigrants serving. We were kind of getting away with allowing undocumented missionaries to serve inside the US before this incident

    As all of you know I am a cultural conservative and am opposed to comprehensive immigration reform but my covenants & loyalties to the Lord and his Kingdom and his servants like this elder over-ride any of my political leanings

  62. queuno on April 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I’m just glad I’m being protected spiritually by a group of people who have righteousness standards that the Lord isn’t imposing…

  63. John Mansfield on April 27, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I am aghast at Alison Moore Smith’s selfishness that she would be unwilling to share her identity with another human, a being of infinite worth and potential. The person only had to “steal” her identity because of unjust laws that assigned that identity to Mrs. Smith solely on the basis of having been born as herself, a wholly unmerited and discriminatory distinction. In a more loving, just society, others could also be Alison Moore Smith without needing to live in fear of persecution for pursuing this noble aspiration.

  64. Mark B. on April 27, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Is that new “Mark” the same person as “Mark Ping”? The quality of the reasoning is similar–so I’m inclined to think so.

    He speaks as so many of the strongly opinionated, without any limitations imposed by the facts or the law. He says that “illegal alien” is the proper legal term. Really? Just what section of the Immigration and Nationality Act contains that language? (Don’t waste your time Mark/Mark Ping–it’s not in there.)

    Ray brings up the critical issue–all the draconian penalties imposed by the INA are suffered by simple, ordinary, decent people. They’re not, for the most part, criminals. Their violations of the law are sort of like returning a library book late. The “worst” thing most of them do is to want to work, and to buy some papers on the street to facilitate that. True, that does cause trouble for innocent Americans–but it’s not the kind of trouble caused by identity thieves who want to empty out your bank account or and destroy your credit.

    Let’s hope that the young man can get a bond hearing, and that the judge will grant bond.

  65. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Dropping my last name wasn’t exactly an attempt to hid there “Mark B.” Sorry if I confused you.

  66. Janine G on April 27, 2009 at 10:34 am

    While we should be compssionate and charitable, we should also consider the emotional and spiritual effects of our support. I have a good friend who left the church because of advice she received from Church leaders to disobey the law and engage in fraud. She had a work visa that was expiring and was prepared to return to her home country, but was distraught because she had lived and worked here for years. The bishop advised her to pay for a fake marriage and have children (so that the kids would be citizens). He even knew where to go for fake documents, etc. My friend asked the bishop if he thought she was a prostitute; then she left his office, the building, and the Church for good. She lives a much simpler life now, on the other side of the world, but is at peace with her conscience.

  67. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

    BTW, if you want to find the term “illegal alien” in US code, you can simply search for it. Here’s an example of Title 8, section 1365: Reimbursement of States for costs of incarcerating illegal aliens and certain Cuban nationals.

    Here’s a list of search results.

  68. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Janine – I’m not sure the advice you say this Bishop gave constitutes “support” nor do I think you could characterize this as the sort of advice frequently given by Church leaders or members, even those sympathetic toward the plight of undocumented immigrants.

  69. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 10:47 am

    #59 – I don’t buy the argument that his parents bought him here and he has no responsibility. When he came to understood his status, he could make a (very difficult) choice. He is now in violation of the law.

    This makes no sense. In situations like these, children do what they’re told to by their parents. To try to play them off as responsible for their status grossly distorts the situation.

  70. Mark B. on April 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

    OK, Mark. So you found the one place in the statute where it appears–in a section describing reimbursement of states for the costs of incarcerating certain immigration related detainees. That the term “illegal alien” is not generally used in the law is of course borne out by the fact that the term is defined in that section, and the definition is limited to the section you cited: “An illegal alien referred to in subsection (a) of this section is . . . ”

    No instances of the term “illegal alien” appears in any other section of the Title 8 that appears in your search results.

    If a bishop gave the kind of advice that Janine’s friend reported, he was just plain wrong. And anyone who commits or advises someone to commit marriage fraud is a criminal–unlike people who just happened to overstay their visa. The problem with the story is that there would be no need for fraudulent documents if there were a marriage. The document (a marriage certificate) would be real, even if the underlying relationship was a fraud. So, why would he have advised her where to get fake documents.

    Furthermore, how fake is a marriage if she has kids? I tell my clients that the USCIS will likely overlook deficiencies in supporting documentation (joint leases, bank accounts, insurance, etc.) if there is a child born to the marriage.

  71. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Steven (59) wrote:

    Kent, I apologize for the mistake. I meant no disrespect.

    None taken. Its the most common mistake with my name.

    I understand there may be other issues in the comparison of same sex marriage and illegal immigration, but based solely on the principle of justice that you brought up, I don’t see the difference. You say it’s based solely on something they can’t control, and gender and birth location both qualify. So I am just arguing that it’s not as simple as you initially said. It has to fit this form of justice AND follow other principles? I believe you’re also arguing about the good (or maybe the right) of immigration? Otherwise it would be a neutral issue .

    You’ll have to tell me what else you think immigration laws might be based on besides where you are born.

    Same Sex Marriage has more to it than just whether or not you are born a particular gender. There are moral prohibitions (commandments) involved.

    I’m NOT going to be threadjacked into a conversation about SSM, not my issue anyway.

    I don’t claim that my thinking on immigration is complete. You may be right that I portrayed this too simply initially. I don’t claim to have even made a thorough analysis of the whole question. But I don’t see immigration and SSM in the same light.

    And, I do admit that overall I see that immigration is a good thing, everything else being equal.

    As to this young man, what are the options? Does he have a future in the US? Can he legally get a (good) job? I agree there is need for immigration reform. But unless something changes, he has to lie in order to get a good job here. Is that really a good future for him? He will be in jeopardy here forever.

    I agree with you that his prospects are difficult under current law. Given the current situation, I wouldn’t have any idea how to advise him.

    I have no desire to burn him. The way it’s been described, if he agrees to go back to whatever country he was born, he will be quickly released… Yes, you may bring up something like jaywalking or speeding. But when people do those things, they usually are willing to accept possible consequences. Are we saying we don’t want people to accept the consequences of illegal immigration? Elder Holland said that these missionaries DO accept possible consequences.

    Yes, we are usually willing to pay the fine for jaywalking, or speeding, or what have you. But that is because the consequences are in line with the magnitude of the crime.

    One of the problems that get overlooked here is that deportation as a consequence it life-changing (to say nothing of the more temporary consequence that everyone detained goes through–imprisonment). I’m not sure that I think that imprisonment and deportation are equitable crimes for overstaying a visa.

  72. Janine G on April 27, 2009 at 11:12 am

    How so, Mark? Any leader who advises breaking the law to stay, work, live, and prosper illegally is supporting lawlessness. In this case, marriage was suggested because it is often the easiest and quickest way to permanent residency. The bottom line is that anyone who works under the table, creates or uses phony documentation to get gain, or lies about his nationality and eligibility is selling out and selling himself short. Poverty–even abject poverty– is no excuse for continued dishonesty. It’s an insult to those who tried to get in the country and couldn’t, but preferred to do the right thing with a clean conscience. Not everyone skirts the law for gain. Some foreigners would rather remain in squalor with their heads held high.

  73. Ardis E. Parshall on April 27, 2009 at 11:25 am

    That’s an odd and unlikely story, Janine G. Oh, I have no doubt that you’ll swear it’s true or at least that you’re reporting it correctly, but think what it looks like to readers here: We hear your version of what your friend told you the bishop advised. That’s third-hand rendition of counsel that is so outlandish as to be unbelievable, or believable only with the charitable reading that somebody misunderstood something somewhere along the line.

    You write, “There is no excuse for continued dishonesty.” Dishonesty takes many forms.

  74. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Marc in (68) wrote:

    #59 – I don’t buy the argument that his parents bought him here and he has no responsibility. When he came to understood his status, he could make a (very difficult) choice. He is now in violation of the law.

    This makes no sense. In situations like these, children do what they’re told to by their parents. To try to play them off as responsible for their status grossly distorts the situation.

    I think what Steven was trying to say in #59 is that when a child reaches the age of majority and becomes aware of his immigration status, that child then becomes responsible to a degree for the situation, and has the responsibility to try and resolve the situation.

    Unfortunately, I think Steven has made at least one bad assumption in that suggestion — that the Child has a good option when they reach majority.

    As I understand it, the only way to legally regularize the situation would be for the child to return to the home country, where they do not know anyone and have no support system, and start from scratch trying to enter the US legally (waiting the 14 years or more to get a visa). Some choice.

  75. Steven on April 27, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Marc, as Kent just said, he is now an adult and he knew the risks. I didn’t say he’s completely responsible for his situation. Who is completely responsible for their situation? As an adult, he is, however, responsible for what he does every day. Every day he goes on possibly lying (for employment or other purposes) and/or breaking the law (by being in the US illegally), he is responsible. Not his parents. I don’t claim it’s an easy choice for him. But as Elder Holland said, he knew the possible consequences. I NEVER said this is an easy choice, and I DID say we need immigration reform. I DO say he is responsible for his choice.

    Kent, I am not sure it was an overstay of a visa. Is that in the Tribune article? It sounds like a rumor. If it was an overstay on a visa that expired while he was on his mission, is this common for missionaries in the US? I don’t understand this. Also, what would be a good consequence for illegal immigrants? Deportation sounds like it fits – you come here and live here illegally they bring you back to where you came from. The imprisonment part is not so great, but if it’s kept very short and only to arrange deportation, it is not horribly unreasonable. Again, I don’t think it’s inhumane, and people know the risks.

    I don’t want to threadjack talking about SSM. I just wanted to point out that it is not a simple justice issue – it involves other assumptions and values. Immigration is not a simple issue, and that’s why there’s no simple one or two sentence Church statement on it (they seem to say they have no position and people should be treated with compassion and respect). It’s not like SSM at all (where the Church says that people should be treated with compassion and respect also, but SSM should not be legal).

  76. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    You’re right. I was sloppy with my search results. Here are several links to statutes that use the term:
    here
    here
    here
    here
    here
    here
    here
    here
    here

  77. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I did mis-read the initial comment, but I still find the “option” you present to be unfeasible. Many of these youth are, for all intents and purposes, American.

    Every day he goes on possibly lying (for employment or other purposes) and/or breaking the law (by being in the US illegally), he is responsible.

    I’d like to reiterate once more to Elder Jensen’s comments from last year stating that “the church’s view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass. There is nothing inherent or wrong about that status.”

  78. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I seem to recall president Hinckley saying that Church doctrine wouldn’t come from an interview with a reporter. Am I the only one who remembers that?

  79. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Never made any claim to doctrine here, just Church policy. Elder Jensen wasn’t speaking to a reporter when he made those remarks by the way, he was speaking at an interfaith forum on immigration that he had been asked to attend on behalf of the First Presidency.

  80. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Steven (75), I think I read in one of the comments on the BCC thread on this same subject that the missionary’s visa expired during his mission. The report is that he and his family are from another country, but that the entire family is now in the U.S.

    I disagree that deportation is the best option. It seems like overkill, providing extreme disruption, IMO. But I’m not expecting that you will agree.

    As for the equivalence of immigration logic with SSM, I think I’ve made my views clear. I’m not going to revisit it.

  81. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Then if it’s not doctrine, if it’s policy, then it can change any day. I can disagree with the advice and not be “called out” on it like in post #54.

  82. Mark B. on April 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    If the young man had been in valid status at the time his call was extended, he would have either been called to a foreign country, or he would have returned to his native country to receive an R-1, Religious Worker, Visa, and re-entered in that status to serve his mission. (The third possibility–a change from whatever valid status he might have been in to R-1 status here in the U.S. does not seem to be a possibility with the folks at 50 E. North Temple–we tried it with a young man from our area, and were told that he would have to go back to G________ and apply for his visa there instead.)

    All this means that there is no way this young man was in some valid nonimmigrant status which expired while he was serving his mission. Whatever status he might ever have had was over by the time he began his mission.

    And, Janine, I don’t see how your 72 follows from anything I said.

    But, let me ask you this: I happen to be in a leadership position, and was asked yesterday by a member of the congregation whether she, a U.S. citizen, could sponsor her boyfriend for permanent residence. I advised her to marry him, and, assuming that he has no criminal convictions and no outstanding order of deportation, he could obtain his permanent residence, notwithstanding the fact that he came to the U.S. 15 years ago and has worked without authorization for years. Since the law permits precisely what I advised, have I erred in recommending this course of action? Should I have told her that her boyfriend would instead have to leave the U.S. and wait for 10 years (the penalty, if he were to leave) before fixing his status?

  83. Tim on April 27, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I’m afraid I’m the one who started the visa rumor. It’s just hearsay–I spoke with current missionaries this Elder had served with, and that was the information they told me.
    Maybe Ray would know more about it. He’s a bit more involved with the issue than I am.
    Either way, I’m not sure it matters much. If you grow up in a country, and you do good works and don’t get into trouble, I think it rather silly for ICE to spend time and effort on arresting and detaining you.
    It certainly makes it look like ICE doesn’t have enough real work to do. Maybe it’s time for some downsizing…

  84. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    #80 – I think one can have legitimate disagreements with the Church’s position here. But let’s make clear, the doctrinal/policy line is not a neat one. The Church doesn’t have “doctrinal” positions on a lot of pretty heated public policy issues, yet I would assume that you’d feel comfortable “calling out” members on some of them. On abortion, for instance, “the Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.” I could be wrong, but my sense is that you would criticize a member who was vocal about his or her beliefs that government had no role regulating pre-viability abortions. Instead of posting comments that seemed intent on fueling the partisan fire, you might have tried instead to explain in a less confrontational way why you feel the policies here are misplaced, notwithstanding the public comments by Holland, Jensen, Ballard and others.

    Regardless of one’s views, we can’t allow ourselves to forget, as Ray pointed out earlier, that these are real people here. This missionary just devoted years of his life to helping others come closer to Christ and he’s now facing a situation that could have drastic consequences on his life for undocumented status that, from an eternal perspective, is beyond trivial.

  85. Rob M. on April 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I agree that all church members, regardless of their political views, must have open enough minds to recognize when their political views are inconsistent with the direction the Church’s leadership is moving. That is true whether we’re talking about gay marriage or immigration reform. Many church members, including me, are staunch conservatives. That doesn’t mean we are obligated to take a hard-line approach to immigration. To do so would be in direct conflict with the approach the Church’s leadership is clearly taking. If that’s not enough, it’s also impractical from a policy standpoint. Law and order sounds great as long as it’s limited to rhetoric, but good luck implementing a ship-’em-home strategy. It just won’t work, and even if we could pull it off, we’d destroy our economy in the process. Therefore, I agree with Marc, comprehensive immigration reform is the only approach that will work, and it’s also the approach most consistent with the Church’s position.

  86. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Tim (82), I agree that ICE does a lot of silly things. The friend I’ve worked with who is now being deported was picked up by ICE when he went in to try and fix his status. Apparently ICE would rather sit around the immigration court and pick on those trying to fix their situation than go out and actually FIND criminals who are here illegally and aren’t trying to fix their situation.

    If you ask me ICE is about 50% of the problem. They seem to be, from what I’ve witnessed, overzealous, racist and responsible for the majority of the poor treatment that happens to those detained.

    As for the law, which is the other 50% of the problem, it tells you something when an immigration judge shakes his head in disgust at what the law forces him to do to immigrants. Nothing is more sad than a deportation hearing where a family is being split up and no one has any discretion in the situation to do anything about it.

  87. Bookslinger on April 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Ray, the elder in question will have lots of stories to tell, that’s for sure. Richard Dutcher was also incarcerated in Mexico for a brief time. The Apostle Paul’s incarceration was also used for great purposes by the Lord. Joseph Smith frequently preached to his jailers. The elder can rightly say: “They’re treating me like a prophet!”

    Kent, If having Mexican workers here in the US is so great, why can’t those workers do great things while remaining in Mexico?

    The reason is that there are much less opportunities in Mexico to create wealth through hard work than in the US. Why are there so few opportunities for work and wealth-creation in Mexico? Two reasons: 1) they have less freedoms: economic, political and social; and 2) they have more corruption.

    Instead of importing cheap workers from Mexico to the US, why can’t the US export freedoms and opportunities to Mexico? In small part, we have, by many companies building factories there. But mainly, we can’t because of Mexican laws that prohibit foreigners from owning land in Mexico, and laws that restrict foreign investment in Mexico, laws that restrict foreigners from working in Mexico, and again because of corruption.

    Mexico is hungry for those billions of dollars that Mexicans working in the US send back home every year. (There’s another factor in the net economic cost of so many foreign workers, legal or illegal: loss of capital across the border that will have no return). The Mexican government is all for increasing illegal crossings of the border so that they send money back. It’s a huge source of foreign exchange for them.

    Kent, on the other point: comparing to slavery is a non-sequitur both on moral points and economic points of the open border/immigration issue. Good arguments can be made that share-cropping and using day-laborers was cheaper for land-owners than buying and maintaining slaves.

    Kent, your open-borders mentality also seems disconnected to reality. Taken to it’s conclusion, you’re implying that all nations should have open and uncontrolled borders. That’s just ridiculous.

    In the Millenium, when Christ reigns over all, and all acknowledge his reign, when everyone on the planet is “Terrestial-worthy” or better, there will likely be no national borders, and that will be fine.

    But in the mean time, nations are sovereign, and one nation should not drag down those around it. We (the US) should be a good neighbor, and attempt to lift up those around us, but not do so in a way that our neighbor drags us down.

    Now maybe, seriously, maybe this immigration thing is a partiual fulfillment of the prophecy of the Lamanites “treading and tearing” through the Gentiles. So maybe the end result is that we (the US) actually deserve these things going on as per the prophecy in the Book of Mormon.

  88. James on April 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    8 USC Ch. 12, Sub. II, Part VIII, Section 1325 – Any alien … shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

    Elder Jensen is a good man and a fine Church Historian. But, he clearly was not as well versed in criminal law when he said that being in the country illegally was a civil trespass. Unless things have changed, doesn’t jail time mean that one has committed a crime?

  89. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    BTW, I linked to several passages in law about illegal aliens, but it seems that it’s been stuck in moderation for a few hours.

    Here’s one link of the 9 I posted:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode02/usc_sec_02_00000658—-000-.html

  90. liberty on April 27, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    As a fellow LDS, I can’t understand how we can justify our current dealings with illegal immigrants. I do not believe that Zion can be built on a foundation of anarchy. The current policy can NOT stand. I sincerely hope that Elder Holland cleans this up and ALL Saints obey the laws of the land.

    This is about the law. And the law applies to everyone. The laws are the rules we live by, they preserve our peace and our liberties. They are the common ground that Americans stand united on.

    Even those who engage in resistance in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. fully expect the law to be enforced. In fact, they count on it. they believe that enforcing an unjust law so diminishes the enforcer that he eventually concedes the unjustness of the law and agrees to change it.

    But in no case would even Gandhi or Martin Luther King suggest that the law was something to be ignored or circumvented. Because it is law which protects us all.

    If the Church feels that immigration laws are unjust, then it would certainly be a moral issue to speak out on. But to circumvent the law or assist, condone and aid others in doing so, is a violation of the social contract we all enjoy.

  91. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    #87 – James – You misread the quote. Elder Jensen, while representing the First Presidency, said that the Church’s view of someone in undocumented status is akin, in a way, to a civil trespass. It’s malum prohibitum, not malum in se.

  92. James on April 27, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    #90 – So is the Church’s view correct with respect to the law in the United States? Does 8 USC Ch. 12, Sub. II, Part VIII, Section 1325 mean that illegal entry into the U.S. is a crime, or is that really just like a parking ticket like Elder Jensen has stated as the view of the Church?

  93. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I certainly can’t speak for the Church, but it is clear that the Church has a policy allowing for undocumented immigrants guilty of 8 USC Ch. 12, Sub. II, Part VIII, Section 1325 to both be baptized, go to the temple, and serve in Church callings (including missions). That certainly seems to suggest that it views the violation of this provision of law more like civil trespass than anything else.

  94. James on April 27, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    The view of the church isn’t what I’m asking about. Their view is clear. What I want to know is if the wording of the law actually means that illegal entry is a crime? If so, that means that there is a huge gap between what the Church thinks and what a literal reading of the U.S. Code would lead a person to think.

  95. kevinf on April 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Janine G, you said: “Some foreigners would rather remain in squalor with their heads held high.”

    I don’t much care for the concept of “noble” poverty, and I have no problem with people who are trying to better themselves through hard work.

    The young missionary in question here, probably never has “lived in squalor”, and as far as holding his head high, he seems to be acting in a noble manner as much as the restrictions of the ICE detention center allows. I can’t imagine any of the posters here who are taking such a hard anti-immigration status to be able to look this young man in the eye, and make those same arguments to him.

  96. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I’d be able to do it in a heartbeat.

  97. kevinf on April 27, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    (sigh)

  98. Ardis E. Parshall on April 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    You’d have to have a heart first, Mark.

  99. Mark on April 27, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for the ad hominem Ardis, it makes it clear that you don’t have a coherent argument on the topic.

  100. kevinf on April 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Ardis is more than capable of defending herself, but I’ll say that her arguments are more than adequate for me. (Several lines of otherwise uncharitable comments deleted by my conscience).

    (More judicious editing)

    Nah, nothing else I can say.

  101. Kent Larsen on April 27, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Bookslinger (86) wrote:

    Kent, If having Mexican workers here in the US is so great, why can’t those workers do great things while remaining in Mexico?

    I’m not sure that I was calling this immigration “great.” I’m not sure it is the best thing at all — it is often quite inefficient to move people around, and I think in general moving the opportunities to them, as you suggest, would be better.

    BUT, I don’t think that it is moral to prohibit people from moving around if they wish.

    The reason is that there are much less opportunities in Mexico to create wealth through hard work than in the US. Why are there so few opportunities for work and wealth-creation in Mexico? Two reasons: 1) they have less freedoms: economic, political and social; and 2) they have more corruption.

    I don’t want to agree too strongly with this, because I don’t think that we should be looking down on Mexico and assuming some kind of moral superiority here. Most patriotic Mexicans would probably disagree with most of what you claim. BUT, I do recognize that they have less economic opportunity, probably from a lack of capital, over-concentration of capital among the rich, problems with criminal organizations (which are undoubtedly bolstered by their ability to sell drugs into the US — something which is at least partially our problem), and yes, corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency are part of the problem also.

    When you talk about “less freedoms: economic, political and social” I get the sense that you mean that the government is oppressive. I’m not willing to go that far, from what I understand of Mexico.

    Instead of importing cheap workers from Mexico to the US, why can’t the US export freedoms and opportunities to Mexico? In small part, we have, by many companies building factories there. But mainly, we can’t because of Mexican laws that prohibit foreigners from owning land in Mexico, and laws that restrict foreign investment in Mexico, laws that restrict foreigners from working in Mexico, and again because of corruption.

    Your statement here assumes companies investing in Mexico, which is generally thought of as the preferred way to do things. There are other ways, including through the World Bank and other development resources, through U.S. Government foreign aid, and through charitable work and programs, including things like the PEF.

    I’m not enough of an expert to know how much local laws are preventing the needed investment. BUT I do know that when ALL of these different methods of opening up opportunities in Mexico are raised, the same groups in the U.S. who object to immigration and want legal immigration heavily restricted as it is now, are the first ones to object, claiming that we should not be sending our tax dollars to foreign countries and that our companies should not be exporting “our” jobs overseas.

    From my point of view, no matter which way I suggest alleviating the pressures that lead to illegal immigration, I hear objections from the far right!!

    If you don’t want these immigrants to come to the U.S., let’s make it possible for them to stay there! Let’s help them develop so that people will want to stay!

    Mexico is hungry for those billions of dollars that Mexicans working in the US send back home every year. (There’s another factor in the net economic cost of so many foreign workers, legal or illegal: loss of capital across the border that will have no return).

    You are right. But to the extent that capital stays in Mexico, doesn’t it help solve the problem above? Doesn’t it help develop Mexico so that its people are less likely to want to come to the U.S.?

    But I do have to add one observation to your economic cost point — you are forgetting to factor in the value of the labor of these workers. All that capital you say is lost was paid to these foreign workers for their labor. I’m pretty sure we got valuable labor in return.

    This is kind of like purchasing raw materials from Africa. The money went out to Africa, but we got the raw materials, and, presumably, we will use those raw materials to make things. And often in these cases, what we make is sold back to Africa or the place where we sourced the labor.

    The Mexican government is all for increasing illegal crossings of the border so that they send money back. It’s a huge source of foreign exchange for them.

    I suspect that the border crossings and the associated illegal activity of coyotes and drug traffickers are enough of a headache that any pleasure at the increase in crossings is tempered substantially.

    But it doesn’t matter. If you can either develop Mexico enough, or allow enough immigrants in legally, the situation will stabilize and everyone will benefit.

    Kent, on the other point: comparing to slavery is a non-sequitur both on moral points and economic points of the open border/immigration issue. Good arguments can be made that share-cropping and using day-laborers was cheaper for land-owners than buying and maintaining slaves.

    I don’t follow exactly. I don’t want to make a big deal about whether or not the analogy is good, but I really don’t understand what you are saying doesn’t work there.

    Kent, your open-borders mentality also seems disconnected to reality. Taken to it’s conclusion, you’re implying that all nations should have open and uncontrolled borders. That’s just ridiculous.

    Indeed. That’s why I’m not advocating taking it to the extreme. I suggest a more moderate, controlled immigration policy, one that recognizes and tries to confront the economic pressures that are on immigrants to come to the U.S., balanced by our ability to absorb those immigrants.

    Not only is our current policy immoral, it simply doesn’t work. More people want to come than we are allowing to come, and our infrastructure can support a much higher immigration rate than what we have now. In addition, we are doing little or nothing to alleviate the pressures on immigrants to come, and instead putting them into impossible positions when they do come, positions that exacerbate the problem.

    I just believe we need to let a lot more people in than we do now, while carefully thinking about the effects of the law and what it means immigrants will do and while encouraging and increasing our efforts to help foreign workers find reasonable employment at home so they don’t have the incentive to come.

    Instead, the reactions I hear on this blog and elsewhere, especially from the far right, is that we should concentrate on enforcement and on making the law more strict, and, apparently, on the Church punishing those members who are here illegally in an attempt to force them to return to their home country regardless of circumstance.

    All I can say is that these ideas WILL NOT WORK.

    In the Millenium, when Christ reigns over all, and all acknowledge his reign, when everyone on the planet is “Terrestial-worthy” or better, there will likely be no national borders, and that will be fine.

    But in the mean time, nations are sovereign, and one nation should not drag down those around it. We (the US) should be a good neighbor, and attempt to lift up those around us, but not do so in a way that our neighbor drags us down.

    Amen. Can we talk to the far right about allowing this to happen? Can we tel the “America First” crowd to back off?

    Now maybe, seriously, maybe this immigration thing is a partiual fulfillment of the prophecy of the Lamanites “treading and tearing” through the Gentiles. So maybe the end result is that we (the US) actually deserve these things going on as per the prophecy in the Book of Mormon.

    I hope not. Because, at least until now, the immigrants seem to be taking the brunt of the suffering.

  102. Marc Bohn on April 27, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I think this post has run its course. Thanks for all of your comments. Please keep the missionary detained in Cincinnati in your thoughts and prayers.

  103. Curtis DeGraw on April 27, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    [Admin: We decided to end on one last comment from a reader who emailed T&S]

    Remember, everyone, this young man carried an incredible spirit with him. He spoke with power and conviction and understood the heart of the Gospel at least as well I do. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a more spiritually in-tune missionary in my life – and that’s not hyperbole. God walked with that young man as he served his mission.

    That is not inconsequential, as it relates directly to how he is being characterized, even if only indirectly, in many of these comments. This isn’t just a person; this is a man of God – a truly amazing man, quite frankly. It’s easy to lose sight of that fact, especially or those who have not met him or felt the depth of his spirit.

    Discussions of legal options and the law are one thing; statements that demean his character and paint with overly broad brushes of condemnation and vitriol are quite another.

    “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

    There’s a lot of stone throwing in this thread, and that makes me FAR sadder than even this young man’s plight.