Undocumented Missionaries

last week an undocumented lds missionary was arrested in the cincinnati airport while attempting to return home after completing his two years of service. he was detained, according to a church spokesperson, for “lacking necessary documentation to board his flight home.” you can read the news story here, which includes comments from church leaders.

the church allows undocumented immigrants to serve lds missions in the country in which they reside. although religious organizations are not liable for allowing undocumented immigrants to participate in church service, including missionary work, this arrest “certainly raises the stakes and complexity of such service."

i’ve spent the better part of the afternoon trying to sort out my thoughts regarding this issue.

on the one hand, members of the church have an obligation to obey, honour and sustain the law. even if allowing undocumented immigrants to participate in church service isn’t something the church is technically liable for, it is still illegal to be in a country without proper documentation. for some reason the church turning a blind eye to that sort of feels like….hypocrisy.

on the other hand, the “law” when it comes to how to deal with undocumented immigrants is sort of hazy. many police departments in US cities have a “don’t ask” policy. in these cities law enforcement are specifically instructed not to inquire about individuals citizenship status. Moreover, if they become aware of someone’s status, they are instructed not to report undocumented immigrants to uscis (unless of course that person is being charged with a crime). if law enforcement aren’t even required to turn in undocumented immigrants, coming down on the church for failing to do so seems like….hypocrisy.

immigration is an extremely complicated issue. i haven’t even scratched the surface of possible arguments for or against the church allowing undocumented immigrants to serve missions. what does everyone think?

all comments and perspectives appreciated.


BHW said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Regina said...

you're right immigration is a totally hazy minefield! I'm replying before reading the article, which is probably silly. But honestly, I really don't get immigration policies ANYWHERE. I recently had a conversation about this with 2 professors. No resolution was found.


Mercedes said...

hey thanks for the comment regina! so good to hear from you!

when law enforcement doesn't report known undocumented immigrants, it sends the message to other would be undocumented immigrants (and their employers) that immigration is not a serious priority in america.

as for the church allowing undocumented immigrants to serve missions--i don't have a problem with it. one might read their actions as evidence of a distaste for current immigration policies. the thing is, if the church doesn't like how immigration in (north) america works right now, why not take a firm stand? get involved politically (or at least encourage members who share this opinion to make their voices heard--as was done in California with proposition 8)?

hmmmm still thinking this one over.....

Anonymous said...

If the church began to take upon itself the reporting undocumented immigrants, it would, in a very real (and somewhat melodramatic sounding) sense, become a branch of the U.S. Government.

The church really has no business enforcing U.S. laws. It can/should only encourage its members to obey the laws in their respective juristictions as part of their efforts to become all round good/upstanding people.

And while "obeying the laws of the land" can be interpreted as a moral issue, immigration policy itself isn't. The church getting involved in changing something that is heavy on policy and light on morality would be a little much for my taste.

Anyway - just a blog-hopper's $0.02

Emily J said...

Hey Mercedes! I don't have any super intelligent comments but I just stumbled upon your blog and WE NEED TO BE BACK IN TOUCH! I won't use your comment section for a public catch up, but we'll be up in Boston in a couple weeks for my sister's wedding. Let's be friends again:).

Mercedes said...

EMILY!!! What a treat to hear from you! I just sent an email to address I had on file for you...but I am not sure if you still use it. We are going to be in NYC on Sunday and Monday and I would love to have a roommate reunion. Email me if you didn't get my email at mercedeswhite@gmail.com

I love you---can't wait to see you!