Immigration Where?

June 13, 2011 | 20 comments
By

0-a-VISA-SOUTH-AFRICA-BLOG2-300x200When I was on vacation a few years ago I picked up a local paper and found a number of articles about the problems that area was facing because of illegal immigration. Predictably there was crime committed by the illegal immigrants, and a lot of hate towards them. For an American nothing there was unusual–except that I was in South Africa.

Sometimes we in the U. S. look at immigration as if we are the only nation in the world struggling with an influx of immigrants (both legal and illegal). In fact, many places around the world face immigration issues. South Africa is struggling with immigration from Mozambique and Zimbabwe. France with immigration from Algeria and West Africa, Germany with immigrants from Turkey, England with Pakistanis, Indians and others, and all the wealthier nations of the EU with immigration from the poorer nations in the union.

Most of these migrations come simply from economic disparity. This economic issue is troubling, in my opinion. Somehow (and this applies to everyone involved) we are more concerned with preserving our economic status than we are with the welfare of our neighbor. We are concerned with “laying up for ourselves treasures on earth” than with building those we would have in heaven.

I was reminded of the international nature of the immigration issue when I read the Church’s most recent immigration statement, issued Friday, which said:

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.

Yes, while the economic motivation of immigrants is left out of this statement, the unfortunate effect of the reaction too often ends up fostering hate towards those of specific races, cultures or religions. This hate is indeed a troubling issue.

As a teenager in the early 1970s, as I became politically aware, one of the chief concerns in the U.S. over immigration wasn’t those coming into the U.S., but those who were trying to leave communist countries. Would-be immigrants were shot trying to cross the Berlin wall, or recaptured and sent to “re-education” camps in countries in Southeast Asia and China. Conservatives railed at these countries for building walls to keep citizens in.

Of course the situations are very different. I don’t want to equate fleeing the economic oppression of most communist countries with simply fleeing poverty. As is often the case when we look at history, the parallels are not quite right, leaving us either uncertain or sure that the historical examples don’t apply.

I think there is something to be gained by looking at the immigration issue from both an international perspective and from an historical perspective. Perhaps those perspectives will help us understand the Church’s position on immigration.

Tags: , , , ,

20 Responses to Immigration Where?

  1. Paul on June 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Appreciate this post. I found myself musing about the international appeal / impact / perspective of the most recent statement from the church. Hard to imagine that it was authored only for a small local audience.

  2. Tim on June 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    While the U.S. struggles mainly with immigration from one (very broad) group, countries like Germany struggle with immigration from all directions. Not only Turkey, but Iran and other Middle East countries, Nigeria and other African countries, and Eastern Europe (including parts that are not a part of the EU). So instead of being racist against just one group like many in the U.S. (Latinos), many Germans are racist against three groups (anyone who looks like they’re from Africa, the Middle East, or Russia). I think this also helps explain (but not excuse) some of the anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe.

    I served in Germany a little over ten years ago, and an investigator I worked with was actively involved in bringing illegal immigrants (mainly Eastern Europeans) into Germany. Some of them stayed at his place for weeks before moving on. Good people.

  3. PoNyman on June 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    In Venezuela there was extreme prejudice against Columbians. They would stop buses and check passports in order to find, specifically, Columbians. Now that the economic has changed and Venezuela has slid and Columbia has gained ground I’ve heard the situation has reversed.

  4. chris on June 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I want to echo some of the sentiment in this post about the trouble and concern of economic poverty with a quote I read recently from Marion Romney,

    “Everyone agrees that poverty and social privation should be eliminated. We ourselves must do all we can to eliminate them.

    We know, however, that success in such an endeavor would not cure our ills unless that success were accomplished in the Lord’s way. Poverty and social privations and other of our ills are not the cause, but the consequences of our evil practices.”

    And if you read that carefully in light of the statements of the prophets on consecration, fast offerings, esteeming our brother as ourselves, etc. etc. you’ll see that he’s not saying the Lord will make you poor if you sin. But rather that only preaching and living the gospel and imparting our substance one to another will remove the ills we are all so worried about.

    I always try to remind myself of this whenever some self-inspired leader believes they have the solution to immigration or economic woes.

  5. Ali999 on June 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Personally, although I am of Arab Christian ancestry, I prefer the teachings of Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be; if I am only for myself, what am I? A nice statement of enlightened self-interest.

    The author ignores the fact that nations have immigration laws and limits to protect the interests of their own citizens. “Greed” has little to do with it. Survival does. The United States has more than 15 million unemployed, while 5-7 million illegal aliens have jobs. What’s wrong with this picture? To my notion, immigration should LIFT A NATION UP, not send it in a race to the bottom with other countries of the world. Mexico, a wealthy country and home to the world’s richest man, foists its poor on the US as illegal aliens, making conditions worse for Americans, while its wealthy live in comfort. Poverty in Mexico is caused not by the U.S. but by the bad decisions of its people: the decision to have more children than they can afford and a tolerance of corruption. Several hundred years of influence by the Catholic Church only reinforced these.

  6. Dan on June 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Kent,

    Most of these migrations come simply from economic disparity.

    I’d wager all migrations come from economic disparity.

  7. chris on June 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Dan,
    How about all those Mormon immigrants sacrificing all to come to Zion, and often arriving in a place where they sacrificed many if not all possessions to get there? Echo the family of Lehi who left behind their possessions and went to a place where they would be econically worse off.

    One of the sad things about immigration controls that are too tight is it really is like a firewall thrown up in front of the various branches of the Lord’s olive tree and preventing them from moving around. I don’t see God as being the author of laws which prevent the free movement of people in and out of borders.

    And I hasten to add that a nation does need to control and monitor its borders, as well as make sure those who are in their country play nice.

  8. Dan on June 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Chris,

    You mean Mormons who emigrated from Northern Europe to America, right? I’m gonna bet—and I’m making an assumption here—that those Mormons who emigrated from England, Norway, Sweden, and so on, did not live the best lives in their home countries and thought they could make a better life in America.

  9. Dan on June 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    and apropos for this discussion The Big Picture has a fantastic set of pictures of immigrants around the world.

  10. Kent Larsen on June 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Dan, you should consider those who flee because of political oppression, war or genocide. I admit that economics can be an intermediate factor (war, for example, destroys both property and the ability to make an income in many cases), but there are clearly cases of those who were better off before their migration and could have preserved their fortunes if they hadn’t left–although those may be few.

    To be honest, I can’t a accept that we should blame economics when the economic difficulty is caused by a factor like war or genocide.

  11. E on June 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    #5: Why do American citizens deserve jobs and others don’t?

  12. Kent Larsen on June 14, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Today’s news reminds us of the injustice and inhumanity of our immigration system:

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/51998759-90/callejas-family-felix-immigration.html.csp

  13. Alison Moore Smith on June 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Somehow (and this applies to everyone involved) we are more concerned with preserving our economic status than we are with the welfare of our neighbor. We are concerned with “laying up for ourselves treasures on earth” than with building those we would have in heaven.

    Forcing this idea on the issue isn’t accurate. There are many, many reasons that people oppose particular laws or legislation, and they don’t necessarily require those involved to be selfish or greedy. Studies have shown that conservatives give vastly more of their personal wealth to charities than liberals, yet liberals like to claim a corner on the market on “caring.” (Look at Obama’s and Biden’s historical contributions, for one example.)

    Can’t we at least agree that there may actually be an honest difference of opinion about HOW to best approach a problem, rather than impugn those involved? Generally speaking, conservatives do not believe that forced redistribution is acceptable, while liberals tend to lean to mandated government solutions. That should be discussed on it’s merits without attempting to divine the motives of those involved — or the ad hominem that often follows.

    That said, I suggest that it is the “economic status” of the US that makes it attractive to so many. Kent’s assertion as to why people come backs this up. Preserving that which is deemed so desirable might not be the worst thing to consider in looking for solutions.

    The United States has more than 15 million unemployed, while 5-7 million illegal aliens have jobs.

    Before someone says that illegals perform jobs that American’s won’t do, I’d just like to present a few of the paying jobs (outside of my home) I held before I was qualified and able to get jobs I preferred:

    child care
    lawn mowing
    landscaping
    yard maintenance
    fruit picking
    house cleaning
    ironing and laundry
    fast food
    cashier

    My husband:

    farming
    yard work
    oil rig
    grocery store bagger
    commission sales
    construction

    When my kids turn 8 they earn their own money for clothes, activities, lessons, school fees, etc. When they are teens, they earn it outside our home. Trust me, they’ll do anything on that list and more, too.

  14. John C. on June 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Alison,
    I believe the breakdown is “church-going” conservatives, then “church-going” liberals, then non-”church-going” liberals, then non-”church-going” conservatives (Mark Brown told me that once), so attending church appears to be a better correlate to charitable giving than political ideology.

    Regarding the second portion of your comment, if your grown children were baggers at the local grocery store, would you think of them as filling the potential of their creation? Not that we’d think that necessarily of an immigrant to our fair land, of course, but we’d be more likely to cut the immigrant some slack do to the other obstacles they’ve had to overcome. It may well be that folks don’t come here with the goal of picking strawberries, but these are the jobs that they are (initially) able to get. That native-born folk have the advantage of (ideally) getting all the crappy jobs out of the way earlier doesn’t really mean anything. If you had to take a job cleaning out hotel rooms, it would be out of the same financial desperation that brings immigrants here, nothing more.

  15. chris on June 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Dan,
    My point was that some people immigrate because they are moved on by the spirit. Lehi left behind property and went to wilderness of poverty. Many immigrants in Nauvoo did the same. Many in Europe did the same. Many were poor, but not all. To suggest they moved simply because of economic reasons then needs to explain they those who had property moved and also why they didn’t immigrate before being converted. I’d suggest economic incentive was the last thing on the mind of the converts who moved to Zion.

    I agree most people today are moving around for mere economic reasons. But I think a lot of people are also moving around for spiritual ones as well.

  16. John Mansfield on June 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    There’s another half to worldwide immigration conflicts, the case of small, relatively affluent minorities in strong mercantile positions. For example, Chinese in southeast Asia, Indians in east Africa, Koreans in south-central Los Angeles.

  17. Kent Larsen on June 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Allison (13) wrote: “Forcing this idea on the issue isn’t accurate. There are many, many reasons that people oppose particular laws or legislation, and they don’t necessarily require those involved to be selfish or greedy.”

    First, I’m not equating worrying about your “economic status” with greed. Its a bit more complicated than that.

    Second, it would be nice if you gave us an example or two of when this happens — when its not exactly about economics. As Dan has indicated above, economics can be part of the reason in so many cases that its hard to exclude it.

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 15, 2011 at 7:30 am

    #6 — Dan, my parents met people in migrations fleeing genocide. For the first 100 years or so, those moving to America did so at economic loss for the most part.

    #13 — Alison Moore Smith Can’t we at least agree that there may actually be an honest difference of opinion about HOW to best approach a problem — we should, doesn’t mean we will.

    Before someone says that illegals perform jobs that American’s won’t do, I’d just like to present a few of the paying jobs (outside of my home) I held before I was qualified and able to get jobs I preferred: there are places where all those jobs get done without populations of illegals. When someone makes that particular argument it just means they don’t get out much.

    Lots of interesting things going on, if people would only talk about them …

  19. Carlos Alvarez-Jarvis on June 16, 2011 at 10:44 am

    To put it simply, the Lord does not care about illegal immigration! There are many instances in scriptures/history which we can see that Prophets were inspired by the Lord to take their people to a land previously occupied by others.

    Many Mormons like me descend from illegal aliens (or Pioneers, for that matter) that entered into Mexican territory in 1847, which Mexico was obligared to sell until 1848. So, in a way we can say that Brigham Young was inspired to land illegaly in another country. That is why I am particularly irritated when a Mormon speaks (like Russell Pearce)out against illegal aliens and many Mormons (like the Maricopa County LDS applaud it). For them, ignorance might be bliss, but the “Original Utah Mormons” (including Brigham Young) were all illegal aliens!

    Hopefully in light of what history has shown us in repeated ocassions, now we can discuss immigration matters in a more intelligent way!

    (By the way, I am both an American and Mexican citizen by birth, but have chosen to live in Mexico and not in the USA. Many in Mexico choose to stay here if we can make a decent living, evidencing that those choosing to immigrate illegaly mostly do it due to economic hardship.)

  20. Kent Larsen on June 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Carlos, thank you. I think you will find many here who agree with you.

    BTW, I’m not sure that all Mormons in Pearce’s district agree with him, since his district (strongly Mormon) has overwhelmingly signed recall petitions aimed at kicking him out of office.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.