What concerns you about immigration? What concerns you about the way politicians and legislators are dealing with the issue of immigration? What should we do about illegal immigration? Would you sign the Clergy for Tolerance letter?
The issue of illegal immigration continues to fuel heated debate in our nation and around the world as well. The Clergy for Tolerance Letter, which is aimed at political candidates, states in part: “As Tennessee faith leaders, we are writing to you in advance of the Tennessee Republican presidential primary on March 6, 2012, with a simple but urgent plea:
~Please keep the highly charged and negative campaign rhetoric, advertisements and promises on immigration out of Tennessee.
~Please do not inject our state with the language of “illegals,” the unworkable ideas of deporting millions of individuals and thereby destroying families, and the heated claims that characterize the undocumented and their children as a class of criminals.”
I would suggest that there is a need for a fair, honest and balanced debate and discussion of this topic by ALL parties, including political candidates. I agree with the Letter’s preface that: “We are faith leaders in Tennessee who share the goal to advance the common good. We teach the Golden Rule and seek to treat others as we would want to be treated. We believe all people of faith and goodwill must welcome the stranger, protect the vulnerable and seek justice for the poor.” However, I would not be inclined to be a signatory to the Letter, based on the confrontational tone directed at potential political candidates and their constitutional right to freedom of speech.
While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse or oppose specific political parties, candidates or platforms, it has always reserved the right to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that have significant community or moral consequences. Immigration is such an issue. With a world-wide membership in excess of 14 million in 185 countries, the Church has issued an official statement on immigration, which I fully sustain:
· “Most Americans agree that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants. Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.”
· “As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.”
· “What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now residing in various states within the United States is the biggest challenge in the immigration debate. The bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God. The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.”
· “As those on all sides of the immigration debate in the United States have noted, this issue is one that must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.”
· “The Church is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God.”
· “The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.”
· “In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family, and its commitment to law.”
Having served in the Church as a Bishop (a non paid, volunteer lay position), I have had the responsibility to minister to and provide Church assistance to immigrant members. When dealing with the immediate needs of families, especially where children were involved, my primary concern was being able to provide basic essentials such as food, clothing, housing, or utilities, not whether they had proper documentation. (If and when that issue was made known, then counsel was given to sustain and live in accordance with the appropriate laws of the land.) Ultimately, my primary obligation was to follow the Savior’s direction as found in the New Testament:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)
Hopefully, we as a nation can embrace immigration reform that insures the security of our boarders, while providing a system that will allow some sort of a “guest worker” program, which would include measures that will allow those who are now here illegally to work legally, thus being able to provide for their families and be better able to be contributing members of our communities — but without establishing an unique or special path to citizenship or the granting of amnesty. The Utah Compact is an excellent model for how states can deal with policy issues relating to the immigration debate. It has broad support from community leaders, business associations, law enforcement officers and members of Utah’s religious community. Go to: http://utahcompact.com/