Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Another Reason not to Vote for Mitt Romney

June 16th, 2011 by G.

I read the press release from the LDS Newsroom about immigration.

The release is a mess. It’s hard to identify any consistent set of political or religious principles that underly the recommendations in the document. And some of the recommendations are bizarrely specific. Am I to believe that state level enforcement efforts are not OK, while apparently federal-level enforcement efforts are unexceptionable? While God can speak on any subject, I have a hard time believing that he has strong opinions about the federal-state balance in the enforcement of immigration policy. This section of the release is all the more peculiar considering the Supreme Court just upheld Arizona’s law requiring employers to check the immigration status of workers.

However, as a public relations document, the release coheres. It does a pretty good job of burnishing the church’s image with hispanics and other illegals, and the populations they come from, while still giving its largely anti-immigration American membership a sop or two. Do Arizona’s immigration laws conflict with scripture? Of course not. But the sometimes strident positions taken by LDS Arizonans have probably hurt the church’s image in the region, so attacking Arizona’s laws is a way to repair the damage.

The release doesn’t show a lot of awareness of the immigration restrictionist arguments, for instance, on why an amnesty is a bad idea, given our past history of amnesties that have only exacerbated the problem of illegal immigration. That could be just because the release is so general, or because immigration restrictionists have themselves to blame for not reaching out to church leaders and/or being off-puttingly bumptious. I suspect the latter.

I doubt many church members will have their minds much changed by this release, and I doubt the church much cares, as long as church members are not too publicly, and, as church members, saying hysterical stuff about Mexicans. The one person who may be most affected is Mitt Romney. Last election he took a firm conservative, enforcement-first stand on immigration, much better than most of his squishy, amnesty-loving DREAM Act opponents. This go-around he would either have to rino-ify his position to square with the release, or else be seen to actively defy his church. As a church member and an American patriot, I don’t think either are desirable, so here’s hoping his campaign sputters. I would not be surprised, however, if the committee that put this release together hadn’t really considered the effect on Romney’s campaign and may “clarify” it if a bust-up ensues. The most likely clarification is a de facto one:

Reporter: Governor Romney has called for building a border fence out of the bones of the children of illegals. How does the Church respond?

Spokesman: The church has laid out a broad statement of principles that should inform the immigration debate. We are confident that Governor Romney has formulated his position after thoughtful consideration of these principles.

Despite the sops and the generality of the release, it is generally not so congenial to me and my fellow Mormon-American nativists. I had contemplated, of course, setting up an online pressure group, denouncing the Church as uninspired, encouraging rednecks not to talk to the missionaries, awarding myself a medal for bravery, and all that sort of thing, but on reflection it sounded like too much trouble. The truth is, us conservative members of the church, that’s just not how we roll. The church can afford to flip us the bird from time to time cuz we won’t flip back.

In the long term, however–and I’m sure someone in the bureacracy knows this as well as I–repeatedly relying on the stalwarts to roll over is a bad idea, as is repeatedly putting your institutional capital behind messy, vague compromises. Both sorts of things work in the short run, but in the long run they eat your seedcorn.

[Editor’s note: This is a Mormonism-friendly site, so please keep comments respectful of the Church. Do as I say, not as I do. Seriously, just because you share my political views on this doesn’t mean I won’t delete your comment.]

Comments (19)
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June 16th, 2011 15:20:22

June 16, 2011

“It’s hard to identify any consistent set of political or religious principles that underly the recommendations in the document. ”

Um… how about love your neighbor and try to make laws which demonstrate love, mercy, and redemption instead of justice and punishment?

It’s perfectly consistent for anyone who has come to know Christ. And this is said as a pretty hard core conservative in many many areas of my life.

Adam G.
June 16, 2011

If ‘love your neighbor’ is the principle which should undergird immigration policy, then our immigration policy probably is open borders, not enforcement+amnesty+the federal government should be in charge of enforcement, not the states.

I think the public image explanation is much more parsimonious.

Vlad Konings
June 16, 2011

You’re right, of course. The statement is simply an exercise in public relations, and we are mistaken to read much more into it.

We already knew, or should have known, that loving your neighbor is the second great commandment. The devil is in the details.

The only statement in scripture specifically on immigration that I’m aware of is the admonition to the Israelites in the Pentateuch that they not oppress the stranger who soujourns among them, remembering that they themselves were strangers in Egypt. That scripture resonates with me, since few are stranger than I am.

But the Old Testament is, well, old, and even direct revelation from God seems to have a best-used-by date. A lot of stuff that is very old has been reconfirmed and updated by more recent revelation. A lot has not, and truly seems to no longer apply to us. For example, I haven’t sacrificed many goats lately. Since nothing in the Church’s statement suggests that it is meant to be regarded as new revelation, we’re left with no real scriptural guidance on immigration policy in 21st-century America.

Personally, I’d be good with an open immigration policy, but for the fact that the Reconstruction constitutional lawyers, in their zeal to make sure the institution of slavery was good and dead, made the simple fact of birth within our borders a sufficient qualification for full citizenship. This was a mistake.

I wish we could have a very open immigration policy that was protective of the basic rights of law-abiding non-citizens. Perhaps combined with exile on pain of death for non-law-abiding non-citizens. (Might work for some non-law-abiding citizens as well.) But birthright citizenship creates a moral hazard that so screws up the incentive structure that I see little hope of rational and humane reform.

Adam G.
June 16, 2011

Vlad K.,
I would not try to dissuade anyone, like Chris, for example, from trying to take it as more than an exercise in distancing the church from anti-mexican fervor without irritating its restrictionist membership too much.
Your comment was pretty interesting, so thanks.

June 16, 2011

Your hypothetical reactionary online pressure group–is it a big enough tent to include my push to get the church to change its stance in opposition to the MX missile?

Adam G.
June 16, 2011

that would be our ERA.

June 16, 2011

Q: what happened immediately after the last amnesty in the 1980’s (during Reagan’s admin) and almost continuously since then?

A: illegal immigration SKYROCKETED. Principle involved: if you reward something, you’ll get more of it.

John Mansfield
June 17, 2011

Birthright citizenship seems to be a very American thing. Nearly every nation in North and South America have it, but very few anywhere else do. It seems like a 19th Century holdover that disregards 21st Century mobility.

Here’s something I wrote four and half years back:

“Finally, nine Episcopal churches voted this month to break off from the Diocese of Virginia, joining four other churches that have already done so. The part that held my attention was the article’s last sentence: ‘The 13 churches represent about 7 percent of the diocese’s congregations and about 17 percent of its average Sunday attendance.’ These Episcopalians who are departing their diocese were its most devoted members.

“When an institution changes, those who liked the institution best will find the changes hardest to take, changes that may make the institution more appealing to a broader set of people. A couple years ago, the administration of the initiatory ordinances was changed. One of our temple presidency said that many had praised the added comfort and ease that the changes produced. On the other hand, I mourned at what the changes had taken away from me and from my children.

“In 1989, an article from Elder Oaks appeared in the Ensign, ‘Family History: In Wisdom and In Order’. To get across the idea that the work of providing temple ordinances for our dead isn’t just a task for a few obsessed freaks, Oaks wrote, ‘In this Church we are not hobbyists in genealogy work.’ Well, except for that handful of hobbyists in each ward who do more genealogy research than the rest of the ward combined, who guide the rest of us in our meager, occassional research, and who think their hobby is a sacred duty. They were an image problem, though, that kept normal people from becoming involved, so ‘Genealogical’ was removed from the wall of their library, and ‘Family History’ went up.

“It’s a tricky balance to expand your appeal without alienating your core. The core is loyal, though; they have to be kicked pretty hard before they’ll defect. Where else is there to go? It seems the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia managed to kick hard enough.”

Adam G.
June 17, 2011

John M.,
I agree with you about the initiatories and everything else too.

Raymond Takashi Swenson
June 17, 2011

There is a vast difference, especially under the current administration, between the immigration laws on the books and how they are actually enforced. The lack of enforcement pleases people who employ immigrants, whether they are major agricultural corporations or rich homeowners in the San Francisco Bay Area who want cheap labor to work in their yards. An unlimited supply of unskilled labor also keeps wages down for other workers, too, which makes lots of employers happy.

On the other hand, if neither the Federal nor state governments control the border, then the criminal gangs that smuggle people, drugs and guns across the border are the de facto governing authority. The US has little real sovereignty that anybody has to respect when it comes to the border with Mexico. And apparently that is just fine with the editorial page writers at the Wall Street Journal.

Nothing the US tries to do about illegal immigration will mean anything unless it takes control of the border.

At the same time, there is obviously real demand for the labor of most illegal immigrants. If there weren’t, they would not be motivated to sneak into the country.

One thing that is important for Americans to realize is that our current immigration laws were not created by the Founding Fathers, nor were they handed down from God to any prophet. They replaced laws which were blatantly racist. Additionally, the statutory limitations on immigration were arbitrary figures that bore only theoretical relationship to labor demand when the laws were enacted, and have none to the current economy.

One fact of the American economy, which is hard for Mormons to appreciate, is that most Americans outside of Utah have a low birthrate, and the non-Mormon population has been leveling off and shrinking, rather than growing. It is immigration, both legal and illegal, that has been growing the US population. The assumption in the immigration statutes is that the US can grow almost all the workers the US economy needs, but that is much less true than it used to be. We are starting to have the same kind of problem that developed European countries are having, needing to import labor to maintain the demographic distribution that powers their economies.

The quotas in the statute need to be made adjustable to respond to the changes in the US economy. Doing this could be given to an independent commission like the Federal Reserve Board. If the law worked properly, it should let in enough immigrants, legally, to satisfy most of the legitimate need for labor that can’t be provided by the people already legally here. It is too bad that “amnesty” has become a dirty word, because it causes people to refuse to consider any change to the laws that liberalizes LEGAL immigration. But the essential problem is that the limits of the law simply don’t satisfy the legitimate needs for unskilled labor. The limits on immigration have been viewed as sacrosanct, even though they are arbitrary and were created by the same idiots in Congress that the same people love to hate.

Restricting immigration enough so it raises the cost of basic goods and services would probably not have much impact on the cost of living for most Americans, while it would have a major impact on the lives of the workers. It would also attract more American citizens into doing those jobs. (The research reported in Freakonomics showed that a minimum wage job at McDonald’s could lure people out of the even lower paying work of street level drug dealing.)

As to birthright citizenship: That was not created by the 14th Amendment, it was a simple fact that extended the same right already existing to people, former slaves, who had been held by Justice Roger Taney to not even be fully human. About the ONLY country in the WORLD that does not use birthplace as the primiary basis for citizenship is Japan, where it continues to be based on citizenship of the father.

When I was born in Japan in 1949, US immigration laws considered children of US citizens born abroad to NOT be US citizens, but to be citizens of their birth nation. But Japan considered me to be American, like my Dad, so I was legally stateless. If Japan had not still been occupied by the US, I might have been deported back and forth like a ping pong ball between the US and Japan. Fortunately, Senator Elbert Thomas of Utah introduced a special bill to allow me and my Japanese mother to become legal residents of the US; after it passed both House and Senate, another bill was enacted that gave me citizenship and my Mom legal residence. So I don’t feel much sympoathy for the people who feel so much hatred to their fellow Americans who were born, through no fault of their own (and perhaps through God’s grace) to parents who happened to be in the US when they were born. Such kids are fully subject to US jurisdiction; if there were still a draft, they could be called into the military. That does not keep them from being sent out of the US with their non-citizen parents, who have legal custody.

While it is a burden to educate the children of illegal immigrants, consider the burden it would be if they were left uneducated, but not returned to their ancestral land. Do you really want to have thousands of feral, ignorant children running around that don’t even speak English? Society educates children as a matter of self-defense. If you can;t figure out what to do with illegal immigrants, the last people you should take it out on are the kids, who didn’t ask to be born in the US. Hatred toward such children is simply a thinly disguised form of race hatred, punishing them for nothing but their ancestry. Solve the larger immigration problem and there won’t be a “birthright citizenship” problem.

Vlad Konings
June 17, 2011

So I don’t feel much sympoathy for the people who feel so much hatred to their fellow Americans who were born, through no fault of their own (and perhaps through God’s grace) to parents who happened to be in the US when they were born.

I certainly hope that wasn’t directed at me. Was there anything in what I wrote that suggested my views on immigration are motivated by hatred?

John Mansfield
June 17, 2011

When I was a teenager I thought the fate of Billy Budd was monstrous. These days, “God bless Captain Vere” makes a lot of sense.

Adam G.
June 17, 2011

I disagree that there’s a fixed level of demand for labor in the economy.

I, for example, have a demand for a full-time servant at a few hundred bucks a year. Our current labor market doesn’t meet this demand, but that doesn’t mean our labor market is broken.

June 17, 2011

If I may be forgiven for taking a liberty, I have observed that, for some gentleman, the chief motivation for hiring a capable manservant is that the employment of a capable manservant is far beyond the means of the middle classes.

I hasten to add that, for some other gentlemen, the principle motivation for hiring a manservant is a genuine need for assistance with the management of one’s daily affairs. I daresay Mr. Wooster falls into this category. While he is not without some feelings of vanity, he has not generally allowed himself to be carried away with them.

June 17, 2011

My understanding is that it wasn’t until the 1970’s (due to a new law or court ruling) that children born here of *illegal* immigrants were deemed citizens. Up until then, the parents, or at least the mother, had to be here legally.

Is that correct, or close, or off?

June 17, 2011

Likewise, just as long as we are asking questions, someone made a point that the Church had spoken out against ending Prohibition, but church members did not heed their warning.

But as for population forecasts, most of the world is plunging, especially the richer countries. We do need them.

Our immigration policy is particularly messed up with regards to foreign talent. We let them get school here, but then practically insist they go home. we should allow those who bring the most to offer, priority. Leave room for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” as well.

June 21, 2011

Liberals fear that Romney will be able to make a strong case against re-electing President Obama!

Adam G.
June 28, 2011

This article about Israel and Palestine has a lot to say that illuminates the immigration debate:

“1) The fact that God loves all of His children is useless as a means of analyzing what is happening in the world.”


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