I've held off commenting on the illegal immigration controversy fueled by Arizona's legislation. I wanted to let my thoughts percolate. I also wanted to amass facts rather than supposition.
The Arizona Representative that crafted the law is Mormon. A similar law has been proposed by a Mormon representative in Utah. In short, we've been drawn into the controversy. So, here goes . . .
First off, I want to relate a story from my own experience: My husband managed the North American operations for a European company. He had to service customers just across the border in Mexico. I went with him. This was 1999. He learned that his customer company's were only allowed to do a handful of things for its Mexican workers.
- Pay them $5 a day.
- Provide them with a uniform.
- Launder the uniform for them.
- Feed them three meals a day.
This is what the Mexican government allowed the company to do. The company couldn't pay them more even if it wanted to. We are used to thinking that companies in Mexico want to exploit their workers. I was stunned to discover the Mexican government bore responsibility as well. When asked the government's rationale, he was told that otherwise the Mexican economy would implode and every Mexican citizen would head to the border area for work. Hmm.
According to CRS Report: Unauthorized Aliens in the United States by Andorra Bruno, Specialist in Immigration Policy, Congressional Research Service, April 27, 2010, 1-26:
- The best guess is that we have 10-12 million illegal immigrants in the country, but the inflow of immigrants may be decreasing. (Page 1).
- About half have entered through inspection and half have not. In other words, half go through the inspection process with temporary papers, forged papers etc. Only about half cross the border illegally. (Page 2).
- About 60 percent of illegal aliens are Mexican. (Page 3).
- Nine states have about 70 percent of all illegals – CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, GA, AZ, NC, NJ, (Page 9).
- Most illegals are working age, 18-44. and most live within families. (Page 5)
- Illegals are concentrated in low skill occupations such as farm workers, building groundskeeping/maintenance and construction.
- Deportations have gone up. (Page 12)
The Wall Street Journal claims that illegal immigrant mothers are contributing to a high birth rate. Their children, under law, will be legal. The PEW Hispanic Center supports this view.
According to CRS Report: Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement by Lisa M. Seghetti, Section Research Manager, Karma Ester, Information Research Specialist, Michael John Garcia, Legislative Attorney, March 11, 2009, 1-34:
From the Introduction:
Congress defined our nation’s immigration laws in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which contains both criminal and civil enforcement measures. Historically, the authority for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration law has been construed to be limited to certain criminal provisions of the INA that also fall under state and local jurisdictions; by contrast, the enforcement of the civil provisions, which includes apprehension and removal of deportable aliens, has strictly been viewed as a federal responsibility, with states playing an incidental supporting role. In previous Congresses, several proposals had been set forth that would appear to expand the role of state and local law enforcement agencies in the civil enforcement aspects of the INA.
Congress, through various amendments to the INA, has gradually broadened the authority for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration law, and some recent statutes have begun to carve out possible state roles in the enforcement of civil matters.
This is packed with legal good stuff but in essence it says that immigration laws and enforcement are federal responsibilities unless it gives the states some responsibility.
States can’t just decide to make immigration laws on their own.
According to: CRS Report: State Efforts to Deter Unauthorized Aliens: Legal Analysis of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 by Michael John Garcia, Legislative Attorney, Larry M. Eig, Specialist in American Public Law, Yule Kim, Legislative Attorney, May 3, 2010, 1-27.:
The Arizona law hinges on how it is implemented. It seems to usurp federal authority but that is an issue for the courts. It could also frustrate and fragment federal efforts. That is also an issue for the courts. (Pages 23-24).
Perhaps the single biggest reason this law is so controversial is that immigration – like, say, foreign policy – always has been the purview of the federal government. The feds’ authority is rooted in Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power to "establish a uniform rule of naturalization."
States cannot make immigration laws. Only the federal government can. So, the Arizona law may be out of line, possibly even unconstitutional.
From the initial legal challenge thus far, some aspects of the law have been invalidated.
The Wall Street Journal points out that the law could be a sticky wicket for local law enforcement because only the federal government can deport illegals. State and local law enforcement will have to either cooperate with the feds or let the illegals go free.
1. The only reason employers hire illegals is to evade taxes and other laws. There does not appear to be any other compelling reasons to hire them. Doesn't it make more sense to go after the employers rather than the illegals themselves? I think the employers have more reprehensible motives, under the circumstances, than the illegals do.
2. Going after illegal immigrants themselves rather than their employers is akin to going after prostitutes rather than their pimps. I don't like it. It totally ignores the reason they are here in the first place. A common reason is wanting to experience benefits and freedoms denied them in their own country. Simply stated, to build a better life for their family. Yes, there are illegals here to conduct illegal activities. But, reasons can vary widely for the illegals. The motives don't vary for their employers.
3. Because of lax law enforcement, some illegals have existed in this country for decades and generations. Don't we bear some responsibility for the current problem, given our inaction? I think we do. For example, if you allowed your child to break family rules for eons and then all of sudden crack down on them, wouldn't that be viewed as unfair? Any solution to illegal immigration has to take into account our country's prior inaction.
4. It makes no sense to deport anybody other than criminals, because we want them to stay out permanently. This is purely an administrative view. Can you imagine all the resources wasted on deportation? The law enforcement man hours, security, wages etc. It is an administrative nightmare. It isn't rational. What may have been an option when illegal immigration was a small problem is not longer fit to be considered now because the problem is too big.
5. On a purely mercenary level, we need 'em. Our population is graying. The Baby Boomers are retiring and we will not have sufficient workers to support them in their Social Security retirement. This is one of the best reasons for allowing illegals to stay. In fact, it is one of the best reasons for increasing LEGAL immigration for anybody.
6. Okay, we don't want to reward them for coming here illegally. Can't we craft a solution where there are incentives to establish legal residency, but harder if they are already here illegally? It can't be that hard. This would reward people who do it right from the start.
I don’t want to get into technical administrative details but they are complex. Here’s a resource for it if you are interested.
7. State and local law enforcement has its hands full dealing with actual criminals – those that are purveyors of violence, cheap Mexican drugs and other illegal activities. Current news headlines are enough to convince anyone, even the most skeptical, that life in Mexico is dangerous for law abiding Mexican nationals. Can we blame them for wanting to escape it? In fact, it’s dangerous for the criminals but I have less sympathy for them.
8. Mexican drug cartel violence and lawlessness is expanding into the United States. MS-13 intentionally targets and kills U.S. law enforcement. I would prefer law enforcement efforts focus on these issues rather than otherwise law abiding illegal aliens. The Arizona legislation shifts emphasis away from criminals to those who reside in this country illegally. In a world of limited resources, this shift does not make sense.
The Mormon Issues:
There are illegals in Utah, but the facts we have don’t merit some of the claims being made as this Deseret News article proves. Illegals are not the source of most crime, for example.
I don’t think any of the references to Utah’s Mormon immigrant past are relevant to today’s discussion.
People are clamoring for the Church to take some sort of position on this issue. It has, and I think it is the right one.
The complex issues surrounding immigration are a matter of increasing concern and debate for all in this country.
Elected individuals have the primary responsibility to find solutions in the best interests of all whose lives will be impacted by their actions.
We repeat our appeal for careful reflection and civil discourse when addressing immigration issues. Finding a successful resolution will require the best thinking and goodwill of all across the political spectrum, the highest levels of statesmanship, and the strongest desire to do what is best for all of God’s children.*
*This is the most recent statement issued by the Church on this issue.
In short, they are staying out of it and they should.
There is nothing the Church can do about illegal immigration. There is nothing the Church should do about illegal immigration.
Some have suggested the Church should turn illegals over to the government or at least deny them temple blessings. But, it can't. That would force it to become an enforcement arm of the state, something no religious organization should do.
It would also force it to prioritize sins. For example, being an illegal immigrant would have to be considered a more heinous sin than speeding on the Interstate or spanking one's child. We all know which sins warrant temple recommend refusal. Trying to rank the other sins would be a nightmare for Church leaders, an impossibility in fact, because of local jurisdiction that must consider context and remorse.
Which brings up the interesting question, "Does the Atonement cover illegal entry and habitation in this country?" The obvious answer is, "Of course!" The issue then is really restitution. Does restitution include leaving the country? Repentance is a clear concept in Mormondom but "restitution" is awfully murky.
McKay Coppins’ column in the Deseret News covers some of these same issues. I’ll end with his ending.
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.