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.
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