I first heard about the Utah Compact from the students I teach in the Boston area. It was a statement of five principles of immigration reform and a sharp contrast to the radical anti-immigration Arizona law passed earlier last year. Leaders of the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as the Mormon Church) officially supported the principles outlined in the Utah Compact. Just yesterday, I was happy to see that the Church issued its own official statement on immigration.
The Mormon Church’s statement emphasizes the need to treat everyone as children of God. It states the Church will continue it’s tradition of compassion for every individual and reverence for the family. In addition, the Church encourages its members to be law abiding citizens and therefore, “The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.”
I teach English to many adult immigrants from Central and South America so the immigration issue is close to my heart. I support the principles outlined by the statement, and in my personal life, I wish I could push the line further and show a little contempt for unjust immigration laws. The specifics of that should probably be addressed in another blog post, but let me give you a glimpse of what I see everyday so you can see why I wholeheartedly support immigration.
My adult students work very hard all day and then come study English at night. Many have two or three jobs and families to care for, but they are excited by the opportunity to learn English. They are full of dreams like starting their own businesses or owing a house. My students aren’t looking for handouts; they’re seeking opportunity. One 18-year-old young man from El Salvador (probably undocumented) turned down an offer for a free English class because with hard work and careful spending, he was sure he could find a way to pay for it, even earning minimum wage. Students often tell me they work so hard because they are determined their children will have opportunities they never had. This week a Brazilian couple proudly told me that their daughter just made the honor roll in middle school. Another woman could hardly contain her pride as she told me of her son that just began college. These people contribute to our communities as the Utah Compact says they do.
Overall, I’m delighted that the Mormon Church doesn’t allow immigration status to effect religious opportunities. It explicitly states, “documented status should not by itself prevent an otherwise worthy Church member” from participating in worship or serving in the Church. “Meanwhile, Church members should avoid making judgments about fellow members in their congregations.” How does the Church’s statement strike you? What do you think about the possibility of legalizing undocumented immigrants currently in the United States?