US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Colbert, Mormons, governors speak out on immigration

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Some unexpected partnerships around immigration formed this week both in Washington and the Southwest.  

Stephen Colbert spoke in support of the Ag jobs bill on behalf of the United Farm Workers Union (starts at minute 56). Meanwhile in other Washington news, Democrats tried to attach the Dream Act to a defense bill, and the Republicans made news by not mentioning immigration in its Pledge to America.

Governors in the states on both sides of the border spoke out in favor of immigration reform, but not at full strength. Gov. Jan Brewer was to host the meeting in Phoenix but called it off because the Mexican governors refused to come to Arizona. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico picked up the slack and invited all to Santa Fe, but Governors Brewer and Rick Perry of Texas did not attend. Gov. Schwarzenegger of California was sick but sent Lt. Gov. Abel Maldenado.

The outcome was predictably in favor of a less security-focused border policy and for a comprehensive immigration reform. The Mexican governors also complained of the gun trafficking from Texas and the U.S. addiction to drugs, making life in their states unpleasant and dangerous. Neither Gov. Brewer nor Gov. Parry seemed much disturbed, since they are likely floating to reelection. (See Washington Post.)

More surprising to immigration advocates may be that they are finding allies in the Mormon church. Utah seemed poised to follow Arizona's example and pass a SB 1070 look-alike--only more carefully chiseled to pass court scrutiny. But some conservatives, even advocates of immigration restriction, joined with immigrant advocates to seek alternatives. They recommended some good ideas, especially considering the state's need for temporary workers.

In early August the Deseret News of Salt Lake ran an editorial that asked state legislators not to go the Arizona way and respect the undocumented immigrants who are here only to help their families. The significance is that the News is owned by the Church of the Latter Day Saints. While the paper's editorial policy is independent of the Mormon Church, Utahans know it would not speak without the tacit approval of church leaders.  

That doesn't mean that all Mormons fall in lock step behind the paper or the supposed approval of the church leadership--any more than Catholics fall behind the bishops on immigration. But immigration is an important issue for the church, which has been very successful recently in attracting Hispanic converts. It has made a deliberate policy to make them feel welcomed, especially in light of the previous church exclusion of blacks from being bishops, the local church leadership. The strong emphasis on family and hard work is what attracts Hispanics--as well as their material prosperity.

Mormon legislators originated Arizona's law and as a consequence many Hispanic converts left the church. Those pushing the Arizona look-alike law in Utah are also Mormons. The Deseret News sympathetic coverage of the immigration issue, however, is not in the least expedient. They argue from the human dignity and need of the migrants and refute the false notion that they pose a threat to Utah. (See NY Times.)