Immigration: A Moral Imperative

Deborah P

Empathy begins with imagination: we must imagine the pain of another before we can empathize. This does not necessarily require direct contact with those who suffer, but as an ESOL teacher at a public high school, the daily interactions I have with immigrant students that my job requires make it much harder to ignore twinges of conscience. I have sat in meetings with parents and helplessly watched mothers weep as they described the children left behind in their home countries: 13-year-old daughters impregnated by twenty-five-year-old men, middle-school-aged sons slipping into gang activity, teenagers the mothers haven’t seen since they were eight.

Treatment of immigrants, as the treatment of any human being, is nothing if not a moral issue. This election cycle immigration is getting more press than usual, largely because of Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. I’d like to examine statements on these issues from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, comparing their stances with recent official statements from the LDS church.

Here is Donald Trump on immigration, specifically from Mexico:

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

Contrast this with the LDS church statement on immigration in 2011:

“The history of mass expulsion or mistreatment of individuals or families is cause for concern especially where race, culture, or religion are involved. This should give pause to any policy that contemplates targeting any one group, particularly if that group comes mostly from one heritage.” (emphasis added)

President Dieter Uchtdorf spoke in 2014 on the same subject:

“One of the core values we stand for is families. The separation of families (in U.S. immigration policy) isn’t helping.”

Here is Hillary Clinton on immigration in May 2015:

“We have to finally and once and for all fix our immigration system — this is a family issue. It’s an economic issue too, but it is at heart a family issue. If we claim we are for family, then we have to pull together and resolve the outstanding issues around our broken immigration system.” (emphasis added)

We as Mormons can, and should, vote according to our principles: our faith plays a major role in shaping what we believe about how to be good citizens, and observers have already noted Mormon reluctance to support Donald Trump. Treatment of our fellow human beings is so deeply embedded in the moral fiber of our faith that the LDS church has made recent statements to publicly affirm our commitment to reducing suffering and supporting families. I find it quite easy to cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton when I imagine what a Trump presidency would mean for us as a people of faith, dedicated to supporting the dignity of all human beings.