The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has dominated news cycles of late. Most people are in favor of secure borders. Most are in favor of enforcing immigration. But what to do with hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who didn’t exactly come to the United States on their own accord, but grew up alongside those within their American community just like anyone else? It’s a thorny issue, and the Mormon Church is not going to be quiet about it.
As is its wont, on January 26 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement about DACA:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established in 188 nations around the globe. Issues of immigration and legal status are of concern for many of our members. Most of our early Church members emigrated from foreign lands to live, work and worship, blessed by the freedoms and opportunities offered in this great nation.
Immigration is a complex and sometimes divisive issue. As we have stated before, we believe that our first priority is to love and care for one another as Jesus Christ taught. Each nation must determine and administer its policies related to immigration. The Church does not advocate any specific legislative or executive solution. Our hope is that, in whatever solution emerges, there is provision for strengthening families and keeping them together. We also acknowledge that every nation has the right to enforce its laws and secure its borders and that all persons subject to a nation’s laws are accountable for their acts in relation to them.
We welcome the sincere efforts of lawmakers and leaders to seek for solutions that honor these principles and extend compassion to those seeking a better life. Specifically, we call upon our national leaders to create policies that provide hope and opportunities for those, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers,” who grew up here from a young age and for whom this country is their home. They have built lives, pursued educational opportunities and been employed for years based on the policies that were in place. 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.
Although the Church just made it clear that it “does not advocate any specific legislative or executive solution,” it clearly advocates a compassion-first approach. To be clear, just because this isn’t coming in the form of a letter from the First Presidency does not mean it isn’t an official statement of the Church.
Now I will wait for anti-DACA folks to say something like, “but the Church included the provision that these principles of compassion are only extended to those ‘seeking a better life’!” Then they will attempt to prove that DACA participants are not seeking a better life based on a subjective barometer. But enough cynicism from me!
This is not the first time the Church has weighed in on immigration. In 2011, it issued a statement dissuading the use of state governments solely as enforcement vehicles, saying, “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.” This statement was in reference to the so-called Utah Compact.
Then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, himself an immigrant and once a refugee, met with President Obama in 2014 and stressed that, “public officials should create and administer laws that reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society, including not only immigration but securing religious freedom and liberties around the globe.”
Whatever happens going forward, here’s hoping those involved in drafting laws or Executive Orders can remember that the Christ whom we worship was considered a radical for his time, and even a heretic, due to his largely compassion-first approach. That’s not to say the Lord did not also establish clear expectations of obedience and fealty, but the Christian thing to do, as well as the humane one, is to approach these issues asking ourselves how we can strengthen families and care about the one. After all, the second great commandment is to love our neighbor. And how are we to do it? With all our heart.