So the LDS Church Public Affairs Department issues another statement on illegal immigration. I had been getting tips stating that a statement was coming out in definitive support of HB116 in an effort to influence the upcoming Utah Republican Convention. While the tips were correct, the statement falls short of anything definitive. If anything, it struck me as vague and unfocused despite a couple of surprisingly juvenile swipes at those opposed to illegal immigration (which includes many LDS members). The the statement sounded desperate and entirely unconvincing (it even seems to argue against HB116). The only definitive point of the statement was a link showing support of temple attendance for illegal immigrants (more on that below). First, the points that make the statement incoherent:
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.
Does that mean if anyone violates that policy, the policy should be ignored? Is the message: be honest and don’t come in illegally but if you do break various laws to do so, we welcome you and will provide benefits? My first thought was: I have a policy about people breaking into my home without asking but if you break into my home I’ll serve you dinner and let you have the TV remote for your efforts (and stay as long as you like). What’s the point of the policy? Or is this an effort to explicitly state further illegal immigration will not be tolerated? Who knows.
Then there’s the statement that would seem to oppose HB116:
The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law…
HB116 doesn’t allow anyone to “square themselves with the law”. Illegal immigrants remain in the country in violation of US Law and ICE will apprehend and deport them whether HB116 goes into effect or not. As such, HB116 entirely fails to meet this criteria. Has the church been lead to believe the legislation would do such or have they come to the realization that it does no such thing?
On to the juvenile swipe (primarily aimed at church members):
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.
It is a bit shocking to see a media-savvy church turn to race-baiting. It seems counter productive for them to do such and, worse, it seems specifically aimed at their members. The reference to “expulsion” must relate to the Mormon expulsions from various states. However, those people were legally and lawfully present in those areas. The racist innuendo is an absolute red herring as they know race is not the motivator for the vast majority of the opposition (which is made up of a myriad of races) but violation of the law. This a shameful ad hominem attack on the church’s own members smacks of desperation. Really, what was the seasoned PR department thinking?
Now the definitive bit – and it isn’t really even part of their statement. A link in the statement leads us to this new release (Responsibility of Church Members: Avoiding Being Judgmental):
The First Presidency has for many years taught that undocumented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member from entering the temple or being ordained to the priesthood.
Note: I was unable to find anything (article? video?) any such statements from the church’s ultimate leadership (anyone have them?). That brings up an exit question I asked a few months ago (note: the majority of working illegal immigrants use a stolen or fraudulent identity – victims are involved):
How would an admitted US citizen ID thief vs an illegal immigrant ID thief fair in admittance to a temple? Has the church policy regarding the US Constitution and sustaining the law changed?
A new question: Have temple attendance rules been relaxed? If so, which previously unacceptable actions or legal violations are acceptable and is there a written policy on such (if anyone knows of a documented change, please let me know)?
Finally, a warning. The tips I got panned out but, yesterday, I was about to discount them when I heard from some tipsters that no statement would be issued after all. Yesterday, I was made aware of several very unhappy individuals who felt deceived by Public Affairs. Now I’m being told there will be no further statements. Given the seemingly deceptive track record Public Affairs has established on this issue, I’m not holding my breath.
Edit (6/11) – Minor text changes for clarity.
UPDATE (6/14): Another point to ponder related to the LDS Church. I asked (above) if the church had been lead to believe that HB116 addressed concerns which it simply does not. A lengthy article on HB116 was passed on to me partially addresses that; intimating that the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and Senator Bramble rammed the bill through and left the church to deal with the fall out on something it may have been mislead on.
Personally, I find it hard to believe that seasoned public affairs lobbyists could be duped (then again, I thought they were smart enough to avoid the race baiting stuff). If they were mislead on the bill’s ability/contents, I don’t have much sympathy as they could have independently read the bill.
I find it more plausible that the church is responding to international pressure (interference in US law) under the threat of harming its missionary program in certain countries. Early in the legislative session threats were made on missionary visas by a local activist with powerful ties in the Mexican government. Then, last week, we see reports related to the watered down enforcement bill: Foreign countries line up to oppose Utah immigration law (the LDS Church has strong missionary programs in the region involved).
Finally, let me remind everyone: none of the above changes the fact that HB116 is incredibly flawed and problematic, no matter which side of the debate you stand on.