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McKay Coppins: McKay Coppins: The fierce immigration debate continues in Mormon communities

Published: Friday, July 23 2010 6:00 a.m. MDT

My point here is not to say that we should all be fine with committing civil offenses. My point is simply that the indignant Latter-day Saints who accuse "the illegals" of being unethical, or somehow unworthy of gospel blessings, should maybe focus on the beams in their own eyes. (Again, that's not to say they can't advocate for strict immigration law enforcement; it just means they should do so without acting so morally superior — unless, of course, they really never have committed a civil offense.)

"Walk a mile in my shoes…"
Several of you made the incorrect assumption that I live in Provo, Utah, and have never experienced firsthand the consequences of illegal immigration. In fact, I have spent the majority of the past four years living in neighborhoods dominated by Latino immigrants. I served a Spanish-speaking mission in Dallas, working almost exclusively with undocumented immigrants. A year after returning from my mission, I got married, and we moved to a South Provo neighborhood where most of the people spoke Spanish as their first language. And currently, my wife and I are living in a Dominican community in Queens, N.Y.

Have I ever been inconvenienced at times by these communities of immigrants? Sure. Have I ever felt unsafe? I did a few times on my mission, though I have no way of knowing if the people who posed threats to my safety were here illegally. Have I ever lost a job due to illegal immigration? Not that I know of, but I'm not ruling it out as a possibility.

But all of these questions are irrelevant to whether we should show compassion to illegal immigrants. The fact is, our personal hardships (which may justify strong political views, but never justify hate) are nothing compared to most of the trials endured by most of these immigrants. They have escaped oppressive, corrupt and/or poverty-stricken countries, and the vast majority of them have no interest in stripping us of our rights or taking over the United States. Having met hundreds, if not thousands, of these undocumented immigrants, I can tell you that the majority of them are here to help their families.

And, regardless of our views on this complex issue, we all have to face the cold, hard fact that if we were in their shoes, we would undoubtedly hop a fence or overstay a visa if it meant delivering our children from the awful circumstances they were trapped in.

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