US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Arizona and “immigration fatigue”

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

When the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination came to Arizona, one would have suspected that “illegal immigration” would have jumped to the fore.  All the candidates approved of the state's tough SB1070 and scolded the Obama Justice Department for challenging it in court. But it took an hour before the subject was raised in the 20th Republican debate and, as Gov. Jan Brewer lamented, the candidates, all for enforcement first and more fence, had no new ideas. Even the economy was pushed to make room for the social issues and some school-yard boasting as to “who‘s more conservative.” Still there seems to be good reason the candidates were so slow in raising the issue. Arizona, according to Republican Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa,  may be suffering from “immigration fatigue."

After the state’s name had been suffixed with SB1070, a quietus seems to have fallen on the issue. Many are waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on it this summer; others are distancing themselves from it because it’s papa--State Sen. Pearce Russell (R, Mesa)--had been recalled by voters and replaced by a Republican who called for cooling tempers on the issue. Other anti-immigration warriors have themselves run afoul of the law--Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and Sheriff Paul Babeau of Pinal County. The business community has complained that the law is hurting them, and counsel a toned-down enforcement of the law.

Unemployment and home foreclosures are more the immediate concern of the voters. Enforcement of the law seems to be relaxed and the Hispanic community less fearful. But it would be a mistake to assume the question has disappeared. Whatever the Supreme Court decides in summer will resurrect the issue with all its heat--both state-wide and nationally.

Mit Romney has taken the hardest line on unauthorized immigration, even though his father was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. fleeing a revolutionary government. He won big, but probably not because of his immigration hard line, While he had the support of most Mormons, he did not win the votes of Hispanic Mormons. The fastest growth of the Church of Latter Day Saints lately has been among Hispanics, some of them undocumented. The church's growth has generally been in Latin America, which has caused church officialdom to take a quiet, but firm posture more friendly to the immigrant, even the undocumented. It let word circulate that it didn't want a SB1020 look-a-like in Utah and promoted the general principles of the Utah Compact.


The Utah Compact is “a declaration of five principles to guide Utah's immigration discussion”. It is not a law, but has influenced passage of a state law very different from Arizona's SB1050. The principles are:

  • law enforcement be directed toward criminal activity rather the civil offenses – which unauthorized and unchecked entry is;
  • concern that the law not harm families, but rather promote healthy family life;
  • recognition that immigrants, even the undocumented, contribute economic value to society and are taxpayer;
  • recognition that immigrants are everywhere in Utah and should be welcomed as people of good will.