Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Illegal Immigration & the Church

I have been quite wrapped up in the immigration debate -- insanity always intrigues me. The dialogue in this debate has been quite heated, and unfortunately uninformed and xenophobic from some on the extreme right. The really disconcerting part about the right is that much of the really (near-racist) anti-immigration rhetoric is coming from members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It needs to be reminded that the anti-immigrant rhetoric hasn't been echoed by the LDS church's leadership which reiterated its position just yesterday:
"Elected officials have the primary responsibility to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions."

The Church is again asking for civil discourse when addressing immigration, noting, "Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God's children."


However we still have openly LDS commentators like former US Senate candidate Eager, Mike Lee, State Rep's Wimmer and Sandstrom, and others who are fanning the flames of xenophobia with arguments like:

"Anchor Baby"
"81 percent of the homicides, when you have a recorded ethnicity, are committed by Hispanics"
"illegals are joining a militant separatist group to take America for Mexico"
"they don't even love our country, because I saw them waving Mexican flags in protest footage on Fox News Channel" (that one came from a family member)

Now, if you are crazy enough, try and tell some of these people they are wrong and watch the accusations of near-heresy fly! Then you may ask, on what grounds do the extreme right use to make such accusations? For Mormons, twelfth Article of Faith:
12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
That's right -- the Hannitized rule of law argument.

Okay, fine. Let's discuss the rule of law and illegal immigration. One of the principle anti-immigration voices is Mike Lee, on his campaign website he advocates the deportation of all illegal immigrants before they can pursue legitimate citizenship (me may mean voluntary, but he means for all of them to go back to their home country before they can be put on a citizenship path). Then the pre-primary Sutherland debate happened. In that debate, Mike Lee was asked how serious he viewed illegal immigration on the criminal spectrum? Mike Lee's answer -- about as serious as a speeding violation. Does that mean, as Ethan Millard pointed out a while back, that police should escort speeders home so they can follow the "rule of law" as they travel? It would seem that ridiculous. Given the "one true conservative constitutional expert's" explanation of illegal immigration's criminal seriousness, let us also consider the hypocrisy in the extreme right's use of "honoring, and sustaining the law."

I live in So. Utah and I travel to SLC once every two to three months, usually for appointments with my doctor or to visit family. On that drive I usually drive 5 to 7 miles over the speed limit, mainly because I have heard police won't pull you over at that speed and I haven't been pulled over at that speed -- so it must be true, right? However, once I reach the Wasatch front 5 to 7 miles over the speed limit is hazardously slow -- the LDS majority on the Wasatch front speeds by more than 5 miles over the limit. So, if illegal immigration is akin to speeding (a crime that a majority of this state commits on a daily basis) in criminal seriousness than the xenophobic extreme right wing of this state need to heed Christ's admonition to "let him who is without sin first caste a stone."

What is more troubling about the immigration debate here in Zion is the lack of compassion towards the Hispanic community. The Hyrum City 4th of July incident is a prime example. During a community gathering before holiday activities began a Hispanic pastor asked permission to say the opening prayer in Spanish. That prayer has led to calls for the resignation of city council members -- it is incredible that a prayer in Spanish can cause so much outrage in a state that claims to be a beacon of Christian values.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has called for civil discourse. Maybe it is time for those who are so invested in the commandment of the 12th Article of Faith to step back and remember the 2nd greatest commandment -- "love thy neighbor as thyself." As the official LDS church statement says,

"Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God's children."
In order for "the best thinking and goodwill" to be available in this debate, xenophobia-inspired fallacious statistics and incendiary rhetoric need to be left by the way side. Once that is done, our elected representatives and government leaders can use the "desire to do what is best for all God's children" to draft logical well-reasoned immigration policy that can reverse the rotten past of US immigration policy.

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