LDS Church’s stance on immigration

John Minchillo
Protesters rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA outside the offices of Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Cincinnati. The LDS Church has previously released statements on DACA and immigration, and the church also provides services to immigrants. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Methodist-based Inn Project helps ICE remove children from detention centers,” the last in The Daily Universe immigration series.

The LDS Church released an official statement in 2011 on immigration, supporting “a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family and its commitment to law.” This means supporting an approach that allows undocumented immigrants to “square themselves” with the law without this necessarily being a path to citizenship.

The statement continues that the church “is concerned that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short of the high moral standard of treating each other as children of God,” and cautions against policies that target any one group, especially if that one group largely comes from a single heritage.

However, the church discourages members from illegally entering any country or deliberately overstaying visas. It also acknowledges that immigration issues must ultimately be resolved by the federal government.

The church also released an official statement in January 2018 on DACA, calling upon national lawmakers to “create policies that provide hope and opportunities” for DACA students, sometimes called Dreamers.

“They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place,” the statement reads. “These individuals have demonstrated a capacity to serve and contribute positively in our society, and we believe they should be granted the opportunity to continue to do so.”

The statement also illustrates the church’s hope that solutions will strengthen families and keep them together. However, it acknowledges that every nation has the right to secure its borders, and that every person is subject to a nation’s laws.

The church’s topic page on immigration states public officials should create laws that “properly balance love for neighbors, family cohesion and the observance of just and enforceable laws” by following principles of loving all God’s children and strengthening families while still upholding every country’s right to secure its borders.

In addition, the leadership handbook entry on emigration states that members are generally encouraged to stay in their homelands to build the church and that emigration is usually met with language, cultural and economic challenges, “resulting in disappointment and personal and family difficulties.”

“As members remain in their homelands and work to build the church there, great blessings will come to them personally and to the church,” it reads.

The handbook also states that missionaries should not ask anyone to sponsor members wanting to emigrate; members who emigrate should comply with any applicable laws;  members should not expect jobs or permanent visas when coming to the U.S. on student or tourist visas; a person must meet all immigration and naturalization laws to be considered for church employment in any country; and the church does not sponsor immigration through church employment.

However, the church provides aid to immigrants through LDS Immigrant Services, a free public-service, which “aim(s) to help those who have immigrated to the United States find the help and resources they need in the community,” according to its website.

Services include welcome centers, cultural adaptation classes, workshops and free legal clinics, all to help immigrants integrate into society while becoming more self-reliant. These services are offered without regard to race, religious affiliation or nationality. LDS Immigrant Services has several locations throughout Utah and two in Arizona.

Other religious-based organizations that support immigrants include Catholic Charities, which provides interpreter services, legal immigration services and a range of community services, according to its website; and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which regularly visits with and writes to people in detention, advocates for the reform of the U.S. immigration detention system and provides legal representation to torture victims, according to its website.

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