Given the heated discussions over Arizona’s recently-passed immigration law (SB1070), I think it would be useful to look at the Church’s most recent commentary on immigration. In 2008, when the Utah legislature was looking at passing a series of laws to crack down on illegal immigration, the First Presidency sent Elder Marlin K. Jensen (a lifelong Democrat) to discuss illegal immigration with legislators. From the Deseret News’ reporting of one event:

An LDS Church leader on Wednesday urged Utah’s lawmakers to “take a step back” and hold a “spirit of compassion” as they consider a slate of bills aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

“Immigration questions are questions dealing with God’s children,” said Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I believe a more thoughtful and factual, not to mention humane approach is warranted, and urge those responsible for enactment of Utah’s immigration policy to measure twice before they cut.”

As one of three religious leaders speaking at a Interfaith Dialogue on Immigration at Westminster College, Jensen urged people to put a human face on the issue.

“Meet an undocumented person,” he said. “Come to know their family.”

The Church has not spoken out on Arizona’s recent bill, but they might, and it would be interesting to get their perspective on it.

In the meantime, it’s interesting to see how predictable the arguments are, and how selective people are in acknowledging the implications of their policy arguments. On the left, people are voicing their typical reactions to any immigration law: it’s “fascism!,” “racism!,” “xenophobic!,” etc, while on the right, SB1070 is being celebrated and defended, with little thought to the law’s problematic concepts of “lawful contact” and “reasonable suspicion” that give state law enforcement officers license to do racial or other profiling.

The left’s immigration arguments choose to ignore the horrific impact of illegal immigration on border states’ public-services budgets, and potentially on national security. For once, I would like to see someone on the left acknowledge the question of OTMs (“Other Than Mexican” nationals) in their immigration policy pronouncements:

Three Afghanis were arrested February 13 [2008] at an international airport in India’s Kerala state for flying with forged Mexican passports. They had just arrived there from Kuwait, where officials examined the passports identifying them as “Antonio Lopez Juan,” “Javier Sanchez Alberto” and “Atonio Lopez Ernesto,” and found that the men didn’t understand any Spanish…

“Antonio,” “Javier” and “Atonio” insisted they were trying to get to France… Now what could Afghan nationals who don’t speak Spanish want with Mexican passports?

The warnings have been coming in for years. In June 2004, border patrol agents arrested 77 “Middle Eastern” men attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D.-Tex.) said that such attempts are “happening all over the place. It’s very, very scary.” In October 2004, intelligence officials began investigating allegations that 25 nationals from another hotbed of jihad, Chechnya, had crossed into the country across the Arizona border. And the next month, a captured Egyptian jihadist named Sharif al-Masri told interrogators about al Qaeda’s plans to “smuggle nuclear materials to Mexico” where “operatives would carry material into the U.S.” A Bangladeshi Muslim, Fakhrul Islam, was arrested in December 2004 while trying to cross into Texas from Mexico. With him were members of the Central American Mara Salvatruchas gang, which some officials allege has ties to al Qaeda.1

Or this:

In March 2005, Time magazine published a restricted bulletin based on the interrogation of a former lieutenant of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Al Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, is (was-ed.) the Jordanian-born head of a terrorist group that calls itself the Organization of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. According to the document, Zarqawi was planning attacks against ‘‘soft targets’’ like cinemas, restaurants, and schools in the United States. Intelligence agents who questioned the aide told Time that Zarqawi had spoken of obtaining a ‘‘visa in Honduras’’ as the first step to steering his minions to the United States via Mexico.2

Those of us who are bothered at the prospect of racial profiling also have to acknowledge that racial profiling is being used by terrorists to exploit the vulnerability that is our Southern border. I hate the idea of people being singled out by their race for any kind of investigation that would not occur with the majority of Americans, but in the end, the responsibility for that tragic reality rests with terrorists, human traffickers, drug smugglers, and others who are seeking to bring hell to America through our border, and using brown skin as cover for their crimes.

Of course, intellectual blinders are not unique to the left; conservative arguments on immigration, particularly during primary season, show a brazen cluelessness and willful disregard for the sense of humanity that so many of us believe is a founding element of our country’s character.

Here is Mitt Romney on immigration in March 2007:

In a November 2005 interview with the Globe, Romney described immigration proposals by McCain and others as “quite different” from amnesty, because they required illegal immigrants to register with the government, work for years, pay taxes, not take public benefits, and pay a fine before applying for citizenship.

“That’s very different than amnesty, where you literally say, ‘OK, everybody here gets to stay,’ ” Romney said in the interview. “It’s saying you could work your way into becoming a legal resident of the country by working here without taking benefits and then applying and then paying a fine.”

Romney did not specifically endorse McCain’s bill, saying he had not yet formulated a full position on immigration. But he did speak approvingly of efforts by McCain and Bush to solve the nation’s immigration crisis, calling them “reasonable proposals.”

Romney also said in the interview that it was not “practical or economic for the country” to deport the estimated 12 million immigrants living in the US illegally. “These people contribute in many cases to our economy and to our society,” he said. “In some cases, they do not. But that’s a whole group we’re going to have to determine how to deal with.”

Here is Mitt Romney on immigration in December 2007:

They should go home eventually. They should have a set period during which they sign up for permanent residency or for citizenship. But there’s a set period where upon they should return home. And if they’ve been approved for citizenship or for a permanent residency, well, it would be a different matter. But for the great majority, they’ll be going home.

Conservatives who agree with Romney’s latter “deport ’em all” position need to answer the following policy questions:

1. Is a mass deportation of 12 million people possible?
2. Who would pay for a mass deportation?
3. What would be the economic impact of a mass deportation?
4. Who in the government do you trust with the work of breaking up mixed-citizenship families?

For question #4, consider the hypothetical case of Maria, a 10-year old girl whose parents came to the U.S. illegally 14 years ago while fleeing drug violence in Ciudad Juarez. She was born in the U.S., and has only her parents to support her here. She and her parents have no home or employment to return to in Mexico, while here they are able to share a meager 1-bedroom apartment and take care of their basic necessities.

Conservatives like Mitt Romney, sensing that The Base needs red meat during primary season, choose to believe that Maria does not exist, because to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands or millions of people in her situation would actually force them to come up with a well-informed proposal for dealing with immigration. At the end of the day, a good solution to the problem of illegal immigration is going to be extremely tough in sealing the border to terrorists and criminals, and extremely realistic and humane in how it treats decent, hard-working people who are already here.

Back to Elder Jensen’s 2008 effort- the Deseret News also reported lawmakers’ reactions to Elder Jensen’s assignment:

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, is Senate sponsor of HB241, where the bill is awaiting a hearing.

“I don’t think there’s any lack of compassion,” Dayton said. “I don’t think anyone is rushing to judgment. This is a bill that’s been discussed for five years.”

Really? The bill was compassionate and well thought out? Then why did the First Presidency send Elder Jensen to ask them to “take a step back”, “meet an undocumented person,” and “come to know their family”? What was it Christ said about the law and weightier matters…

1. National Security at the Border. By: Spencer, Robert, Human Events, 00187194, 2/25/2008, Vol. 64, Issue 7
2. Grayson, George W. “Mexico’s Southern Flank: The “Third” U.S. Border.” Orbis 50, no. 1 (January 2006): 53-69