On Saturday, former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo wrote a column for the conservative website Breitbart accusing LDS “church leadership” of suffering “an episode of moral incoherence” with regard to immigration, stating that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a policy of “open borders.”
Tancredo has clearly not read the stated immigration policy of the LDS Church, the owner of this paper. And we would offer that the real “moral incoherence” lies not with church leaders but with hardline advocates who call for immediate action on immigration but seem unwilling to do the hard work of engaging stakeholders to achieve meaningful reform.
Many politicians are clamoring to erect border walls and deport millions of undocumented individuals, but conveniently balk when asked to remove political walls that prevent progress.
The reality is that most Americans disagree with this approach. A majority of Republicans now reject mass deportation of undocumented individuals with fully 66 percent preferring a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal status. Meanwhile, some 84 percent of Democrats hold a similar view.
While the Breitbart column claims that “it is an open secret in Washington, D.C. that the Mormon church supports open borders and lax enforcement of immigration laws,” the church’s actual statements regarding immigration tell a far different story.
“Most Americans agree,” the church’s immigration statement reads, “that the federal government of the United States should secure its borders and sharply reduce or eliminate the flow of undocumented immigrants.”
The statement continues: “Unchecked and unregulated, such a flow may destabilize society and ultimately become unsustainable.”
This language is hardly a call for “open borders.”
The statement also notes that, as a matter of policy, the church discourages “members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.”
One wonders if the position Tancredo identifies as so “poisonous to intelligent debate over immigration policy” is the church's belief that “the bedrock moral issue for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how we treat each other as children of God.”
LDS leaders have also called for special sensitivity with regard to families, recognizing the harm caused when young people are caught in the shadowy world of no documentation while unmoored from their loved ones and left without a practical way to square themselves with the law.
This position is consistent with the Utah Compact, an agreement signed by Utah’s major civic, business and religious leaders and fully supported by this paper. The document commits to taking a civil approach to “the complex challenges associated with a broken national immigration system.”
Although the LDS Church did not sign the document, it endorsed it as “a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform.” The compact lays out five principles relevant to any discussion of immigration. These include recognition of the federal government’s responsibility to secure its borders; an acknowledgement that local law enforcement’s duty is to fight crime rather than enforce federal code; a commitment to seek policies that do not unnecessarily separate families; recognition of the role of immigrants in the economy and society, advocating a “humane approach” to their reality.
Rather than spend time publishing incendiary accusations, those who wish to see actual improvement that reflects the views of most Americans would do well to follow the model of the Utah Compact — bring relevant stakeholders together and start seeking common ground.
Reflecting on the compact, The New York Times wrote matter-of-factly that “red-state Utah is nobody’s idea of an open-borders fantasyland.” Indeed, many of those who designed the Utah Compact and signed it were bona-fide conservatives by any measure. Yet, they realized that their concern for fixing the “broken national immigration system” was stronger than their desire to win political points. We hope Mr. Tancredo and Breitbart can learn from their example.