The Mormon View of Immigration Reform

immigration-lds_0316110.jpgThe issue of immigration reform is in the news right now, with national leaders of both parties coming together to decide how best to help our brothers and sisters. As we think through these issues, it is important to consider what the LDS Church believes and has said when it comes to immigration. We've collected a few quotes below. For a very detailed history and analysis of this issue, we recommend this policy brief written by a Mormon for the right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy recently spoke out on the issue of immigration:

Immigration questions are questions dealing with God's children. I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach is warranted, and urge those responsible for enactment of Utah's immigration policy to measure twice before they cut.

Elder Jensen later added that "LDS leaders had recently issued a 'very sincere plea' to lawmakers to consider the issue with humanity and compassion."

It was a bit out of the ordinary for the Church to so forcefully throw its support behind a piece of legislation, as the New York Times noted:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its reluctance to be seen as meddling in politics. But on immigration, the church actively lobbied legislators, sent Presiding Bishop H. David Burton to attend the bill signing and issued a series of increasingly explicit statements in favor of allowing some illegal immigrants to stay in the country and work.

The Church's official statement on the matter first explains that it discourages individuals from entering a country illegally, but then pivots to the core of the issue at stake (here's a PDF of the statement in Spanish):

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 statement then gets down to policy, sketching a broad outline for immigration reform it could get behind:

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.

A wide variety of moderate and left-of-center immigration policies fall under this framework, including the Senate's recent immigration proposal and the President's plan, which he will released today at a policy speech in Las Vegas. The editor of the church-affiliated Deseret News urged members to consider our own history when debating the issue of immigration reform:

 “Latter-day Saints, because of their history of persecution and forcefully being dispossessed of their livelihoods and properties, do have compassion and understanding” for immigrants.

So, while the Church clearly hasn't endorsed a plan on the national level, it seems clear that any reform must include compassion, understanding, and balance--all factors that show up in the Senate's and President's proposals. Click here for more on the President's plan. There has been a lot about the plan put forth by the Senate's  "gang of 8," and we recommend this by the Christian Science Monitor.

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