Vai's View: A legal immigrant's take on immigration

Published: Monday, Jan. 31 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

I can't see how we can effectively deal with the immigration problem without sealing our borders. We have 60,000 troops in Germany and 10,000 in England — is it possible the Germans and Brits can deal with their own security issues and allow some of our military personnel to return and help with our own? Why not send more than the 1,200 National Guard troops President Obama committed to Arizona in response to S.B. 1070? What about Texas, New Mexico and southern California?

As for the estimated 11 million already here illegally, it would be impossible to round everyone up and return them home. Certainly, the criminals ought to be. As for a systematic, orderly way of dealing with the rest, that's often debated but I'll defer to those who are smarter. The recently proposed Utah Compact seems a sound and reasonable guide to do just that. It is broad, giving wide berth to law makers as they consider how to best accomplish such a feat.

As for how we deal with it as individuals, I suppose that depends on our life's experience, our level of compassion, tolerance or intolerance and sense of right and wrong.

My parents still live in Mesa, Ariz., in the same little home where they raised us. They suspected a former neighbor of being a "coyote" because a 15 passenger van came and went all night — typically arriving in the wee hours filled with mostly men but on occasion some women. My dad was usually arriving from his late-night shift as the neighbor's van was pulling in with its human cargo. They alerted police and it wasn't long before they had new neighbors.

I don't have "coyote" neighbors. However, there are four Spanish units of the LDS Church in our stake — a full ward and three branches. Some of them are illegal — they're mostly from Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Some are migrant workers — here just for the summer picking tomatoes and blueberries. Others simply do what they can to get by.

While I personally disagree with their illegal status, I do empathize with their plight. This, despite the fact I pay the highest car insurance premium rates in the nation as a New Jersey resident partly because of uninsured drivers, many of them undocumented.

Admittedly, some of my sympathies stem from the direction I get from the LDS Church. I make no apologies for that. I also realize the Church does not appear to engage in specific policy or legislative initiatives on this issue. But they have encouraged civility and decency in dealing with immigration. My family has been well served by following Church counsel.

You see, when my mother was a teenager in the 1950's, the Church's emphasis on Family Home Evening reached her family living in Tonga, who faithfully obeyed. If life in the '50s was idyllic in America, it was even more so in the South Pacific.

Yet, some openly questioned, even in far away Tonga, why so much emphasis on family unity and even Church President David O. McKay's famous quote, "No success can compensate for failure in the home," at a time when the world was relatively tranquil and at peace.

A decade later, our immigration to America brought us directly into the crosshairs of a country heading into a sexual revolution and a drug culture that fractured families and continues to do so today.

So, whatever my personal feelings are about immigration reform, it will always be tempered and shaped by the same Church that guided us safely through the perils of one of the most turbulent eras in our history.

Vai Sikahema is the Sports Director and Anchor for NBC10 Philadelphia and host of the "Vai & Gonzo Show" on ESPN Philadelphia Radio. He is a two-time All-Pro, two-time Emmy Award winner and was a member of BYU's 1984 National Championship team.

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