About a week ago, an LDS missionary was arrested while attempting to board a plane due to “lacking necessary documentation”. It was because he was here illegally. The first comment to the news report surprised me:
I thought the church “raised the bar” for missionary qualifications a few years ago. How is it possible for an illegal alien to be missionary worthy when they are an adult and knowingly in violation of multiple laws? If they had worked prior to the mission they are most likely guilty of one or more felonies related to identity fraud. Shouldn’t missionaries be expected to live all of the Gospel principles including being honest and obeying the laws of the land?
I wonder if this will lead to a backlash from citizen members who were deemed unworthy for missionary work for a minor indiscretion, yet the an illegal alien who has committed two or three felonies is welcome to serve?
If the church arranges for private transportation for their illegal alien missionaries, does that make them smugglers? I think that would be in violation of SB-81 which prohibits organizations from knowingly transporting illegal aliens. I wonder what would happen if a church-provided van full of illegal alien missionaries gets pulled over or gets in an accident?
Up until now the church has openly denied any accusations that they support illegal aliens, particularly when Lou Dobbs reported on it a couple years ago. Does this signal a new public position that it’s now ok to ignore immigration law?
Senator Bennett added an amendment (reportedly at the LDS Church’s prompting) into the Farm Bill in 2005 exempting religious denominations from certain immigration laws. I don’t think SB81 included such an explicit exception on “transporting” but SB81 may only apply to activities that involve tangible compensation (I’m not sure).
This also provides an example of why exceptions which create protections for certain entities/individuals are terrible policy. Those protected are incentivized to encourage those who are not (the missionary, in this case) to break the law. It is almost like legalized entrapment.
While the church is legally protected, I hope it will “…rethink everything. Things have changed, and they need a whole new policy…” and address those who don’t enjoy the same legal protections. The previous policy required starting with a clean slate and going back to their home country before being called on their mission (giving them legal worry-free status here).
Finally, the church’s legal department may have approved or drafted the current policy. Lawyers often work to find ways around laws rather than the cleanest path. If that is the case, one hopes the lawyers aren’t given much weight as the church decides where to go from here.