Am I my brother’s keeper? Undocumented workers and illegal aliens

Stephen MarshMormon 56 Comments

My general experience with illegal aliens is similar to the one called to mind by George Bush:  people who at great risk and significant hardship have sacrificed and done what they could to provide a better life for their children.  It is tempered by my wife’s experience providing anesthesia to family oriented young women who are proud to give their children “American” names and to become a part of life in the United States.

I am aware that historically the risk and hardships were greater, the financial rewards of coming to America were much less.  Political and religious freedom were often the only reward.  The last one hundred years or so have created a dramatic change in the financial outlook offered by immigration while at the same time the cost of travel has dropped steadily.

But what is my duty to those who come here?  To those who do not come?  Am I my brother’s keeper?  What does that mean?

The questions have several completely different parts:

  • Part of the question comes down to inheritance.  Should there be any right of inheritance?  What is my right to the things that have been given to me or that I have as the result of my parents or others?  After all, everything I have as a citizen of a country is really an inheritance, something I have as a gift, not because I earned it myself.
  • Part of the question is whether nation-states have the right to exist, to define themselves and their memberships.  Who has a right to their services and to entry?  Does the state have any rights?  Do people have a right to a state? Does any state have a right to exist?
  • Part of the question is what happens under various solutions, various answers, various approaches.  It is the nature of the current outcome that creates the hideous problems that drive the current criticisms of the present system, it is the anticipated issues of various proposed solutions that such resistance.
  • Part of the question is whether or not I have any duty to my neighbor, to my brothers and sisters?  What is my moral duty?  How should that fit my legal duty?

Some baby steps are obvious.  The military favors giving people green cards who are willing to enlist and who qualify to serve in the military.  Some “solutions” are acknowledged as so disastrous as be bluntly rejected by just about everyone (e.g. completely closed borders, no immigration, no tourists, no imports or exports).

As to completely open borders, the simulations show at least two hundred million immigrants the first year.  90% of Haiti; 85% of the doctors in the Philippines (where now we’ve had almost 10% of them retrain as nurses in order to work in the United States as RNs); etc.  There is also an expected complete collapse of any universal services such as free schools and Medicaid unless access is restrained.  On the other hand, a stable population equilibrium is estimated at six hundred to seven hundred million people (including current residents), with peak expected not to break a billion with open borders before population falls off.  Most see that as not much better than completely closed borders.

But the current situation is pretty bad, including kidnapping, brutality, death and hardship with incredible pressure on anyone (outside of H1Bs) who attempts to comply with the law.  Bottom line:  terrible hardship and abuse.  The side effects are toxic and harsh so that everyone is crying out for relief.

Obviously it seems like something should be done, one would hope, to make things better.  But what – that is the big question, what is our duty and what is common sense even if we do not acknowledge anyone as our brothers and sisters?  I don’t have a solution; I’m looking for those in the comments. But if we are our brother’s keepers (and our sister’s too) the status quo is not enough.  What is your solution, what do you suggest?

Comments 56

  1. I think this is a very difficult question in the abstract. There are obviously areas of the world that are “better” to live in than others – economically, politically, etc. If it was a pure economical model, where people and goods could flow freely to where they were best utilized, the answer would be more clear-cut. However, we do NOT have a pure model where people “sink/swim” based on their own merits (and I don’t know that we should).

    Illegal immigration costs the country a lot of money. I am in the healthcare industry. We spend A LOT of money providing free care to people who are in this country illegally. Wages are suppressed for workers by having illegal aliens willing to “work for less” – great for the employer, bad for the worker. There is social security fraud. There are crimes involved.

    At the same time, there are people genuinely just trying to make a better life for their family.

    We live in a country based on a rule of law. It is the purpose of the constitution. It is what has enabled us to flourish as a nation. It is what has made this a country where all of these people actually want to come instead of a country ruled by a despotic ruler or completely overrun by drug gangs or all of the other things that make other countries undesirable.

    Because of this I think we are obligated to do two things: 1) support the existing laws and 2) lobby to change the laws. In my mind, this SHOULD include the Church. They are trying to have it both ways. We have the recent articles about “regularizing” relations with China, emphasizing that we are following all Chinese laws. We have numerous examples the the Church encouraging its members in Eastern bloc countries to return to their homeland, to follow the laws, and to trust that the Lord will someday make it possible that things change. We have missionaries (including me) have missions delayed waiting for visas, etc. We actually have canonized verses about “honoring and sustaining the law”. So there is certainly precedent for following laws as an institution, even ones with which we disagree.

    At the same time, the Church flouts the laws of our own country. We allow people who obviously can NOT answer the question that they are honest in all their dealings with their fellowman to go to the temple. We allow them to go on missions. We come up with policies to sneak around immigration laws by sending them to missions nearby where they won’t get caught.

    I completely understand the double-speak that the Church does, but they can’t have it both ways. What should they do? First of all, they should support the law here as they do in other countries and areas. If the law says that someone is here illegally, they should send that person on a mission to their native country. Let them serve their fellowman. Let them teach the gospel. Let them go to temples and serve in various callings. But let them do it legally.

    Second, they should campaign for a humane reform of immigration laws. They should have their members donate millions to the cause. They should set up calling banks. They should talk about it in sacrament meetings. They should have stake meetings. They should mobilize their membership for a political cause. Prop 8 has shown that they can and do get involved in politics, to the tune of millions of dollars. They should campaign for expanding rights and compassion, as opposed to the opposite.

  2. I support LEGAL immigration and think what they are doing in Arizona is long overdue. We just can’t afford all of the illegal immigrants that are in this country. Find them, deport them and take more drastic steps to keep them out. Putting our military on the border, for instance, would be a first good step.

  3. “There is also an expected complete collapse of any universal services such as free schools and Medicaid unless access is restrained.”

    Oh, don’t be so hysterical. Surely the productive people will find some way to manage the additional burdens we put on them. They always do.

    (/conventional-wisdom left-liberal voice)

    This is a tough question, and well done for cutting to some of the lower-echelon turtles* that are rarely discussed in this context, like the fundamental legitimacy of the whole nation-state concept. From a Christian and LDS perspective, I would say the answer to that question would have to be yes, states do have a right to exist. (Romans 13:1; D&C 134:1.) Rulers are accountable for ruling justly, which arguably includes having as their first objective the welfare of the people over whom they have jurisdiction (as opposed to those subject to other jurisdictions). They are not morally allowed to increase their people’s welfare at the expense of other peoples (as with conquest), but arguably, neither are they required to cause their citizens/subjects to subsidize other peoples.

    The United States has a fairly generous immigration policy. We’ve struck a balance, which we have judged to be appropriate, between Japan-style tight borders and open borders (which, as was noted, would be disastrous). The frustration comes from people’s perception that their expressed will is being frustrated, by a ruling class that winks and nods at widespread disregard for immigration laws — though that class itself is effectively insulated from the negative effects of excessive immigration. (Hollywood liberals don’t typically live in Bell, for instance.)

    So I would definitely prefer some more effective means to discourage illegal immigration — tighter border controls, restrictions on access to public services, and a more effective verification system for employment (there’s no reason you shouldn’t have to establish your identity, for purposes of being employed, with the same degree of security that applies when you use a debit card to buy an ice-cream cone).

    That said, having fallen down on our job to enforce the law, we share at least some of the responsibility for illegal immigrants’ natural perception that we didn’t really mean to enforce it. (The comparable doctrine in civil law is waiver and estoppel — if you sleep on your rights, you may be barred from later deciding to enforce them.) There are anecdotal stories of fathers of families being deported away from their children, who were born in America and have known nothing but this country. I hate to see that, as calculated as those stories may be to be tear-jerky. In those cases, I do think that some illegal immigrants have established a passable claim on being considered our “neighbor.”

    So I would rather see it made clear that we’ve now decided to pay attention to immigration law — the border sealed, access to public services tightened up, and legal-residency requirements made something other than their present joke — and then see what can be done to legalize longtime residents. But it has to be in that order. Otherwise, it would simply be the same as the last comprehensive immigration reform — an amnesty that gives further immigrants reason to expect yet another amnesty down the line.

    *Reference to “it’s turtles all the way down.”

  4. Agree that the rule of law is paramount for a nation to (1) exist and (2) maintain justice and order within its borders.

    An “open” border is an oxymoron. If the same numbers were reasonably organized in any military fashion, we’d rightly call it an invasion and feel no hesitation to repel it with force of arms. The USA needs to better enforce the immigration laws it already has and clamp down on those that knowingly employ illegals merely for the sake of cheap, exploitable labor.

    That having been said, we as a nation and we LDS in particular need to be generous with our substance and especially our “surplus” to aid those within and without our borders. And not merely writing the check, either. I’m noting with satisfaction that there’s more of a tendency to send seniors on service missions abroad and I’ll be happy to do myself once in my “golden years”.

    I find it a sign of how messed-up this country has gotten when the President sues a state (AZ) for enforcing FEDERAL law.

  5. Well, I’ve said it before, but we should just buy Mexico. Problem solved. Let’s face facts, we’re not talking about Canada here, despite the Sandra Bullock rom-com. The AZ border is unenforceable – there’s not even a wall to scale, just an inhospitable desert to cross.

    Personally, I think hard-working people in desperate straits who want to make a better life for their children are the stuff this country is made of. When did we decide we don’t want hard-working (even if they are less skilled) immigrants? Things we need to solve, IMO:
    1 – create a much more open, fair process for legal immigration.
    2 – create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants with no criminal record (we have to have some way to decriminalize the illegal worker issue, but only in the past tense)
    3 – build a fence, for crying out loud. It’s unbearably expensive (it must be federally funded), but well past high time to have a border. It is actually possible to accidentally cross the border when you ATV in southern AZ; that’s how porous the border is. If Mexico can’t enforce their own laws, how long until terrorists figure out how to get into this country via Mexico and the unenforceable AZ border?
    4 – find ways to resolve the corruption in the Mexican government and the utter ineffectiveness at enforcing their own laws that drives people to flee.

  6. “Well, I’ve said it before, but we should just buy Mexico. Problem solved.”

    Hear, hear.

    Re: the cost of the fence, it’s been grossly exaggerated by people who have other reasons for not wanting it built at all. I’ve seen estimates of the cost at up to $70 million per mile, which is insanity on stilts — $13,000 for each foot of fencing? Even factoring in land costs (and how much is an acre of border-adjacent Arizona scrubland going for these days?), that’s just castanas.

    $5 billion would buy you a very nice fence.

  7. This is a great post for discussion (and I’d like Hawkgrrrl’s suggestions if done in reverse order), but we can’t get there if we don’t get our own elites to start dealing with the issue as something more fundamental to justice than a political opportunity to secure more political power for themselves.

    However: here is today’s buzz-killing reality; the Democratically controlled committee designed to actually deal with immigration reform has called as an “expert witness” Steven Colbert, the very funny comic who pretends to be a journalist on Comedy Central. For stupidity in the use of government, this is exceeded only by previous actual testimony before a committee on childhood literacy by Elmo the Muppet.

    I wonder how many years it can take before our own Emperor starts appointing horses to the Senate. Or would we notice?

    Voting for Glenda the Good is starting to look better and better.

  8. #5 and #6 – Well done! In particular, HG, you clubbed another one..having a Barry Bonds-like posting career without the ‘roids! Or do we “blame” steroids? (LOL). Seriously, being from “Arid-Zona”, even in Scottsdale (my former in-laws live there too) you likely can see the everyday impact of uncontrolled immigration.
    By points:
    1 – it’s already fair enough. We need to be satisfied that those that come here won’t end up as public charges. A visibly pregnant Mexican woman who wants to make her unborn child a US citizen and plug into our welfare and Social Security system should be a non-starter.
    2 – I would agree IF they otherwise meet the criteria for good citizenship (staying out of trouble, being gainfully employed, not on welfare). We could argue specifics but if they show a pattern of being contributers rather than users, then they should get amnesty. The only problem is that we keep saying, once a program of immigration amnesty is carried out, THIS TIME WE REALLY MEAN IT, but after a few years, once again there’s a cry for amnesty. Just when will we insist on strict compliance with immigration law and deport ALL violators? Sooner or later, the commitment to enforce immigration law must be carried out.
    3 – Fencing (or building a moat and/or laying a minefield) isn’t THAT expensive. And, like a prison to house criminals, whatever it costs, thinks of the costs of not doing it. Just as we have the Coast Guard under the Dept. of Homeland Security, we need to militarize the Border Patrol, much like the Russian (erstwhile Soviet) MVD.
    4 – There is but one way – acquire Los Estados Unidos de Mexico as part of Los Estados Unidos de America. Whether by treaty, purchase, or invasion. Dropping the 101st AirCav and the 82nd Airbone on the D.F., and landing the Marines at Tampico (like 1914) would get the message across pretty darned quick. The only problem is pointing the accusing finger at Mexican corruption…we’ll have better authority to do so when we deal with our own, particularly with the current regime.

    Of course, with now there being over one million Mexican LDS (at least on the books), there’s a fighting chance to solve the problem another way….

  9. #7: In defense of Elmo, he was testifying on the subject of music education in schools, which is not exactly a subject to contentious debate. I mean, it’s like testifying in favor of apple pie.

    Having a satirist testify in character on an issue where there is a need for serious debate, beats Elmo by a bulbous orange nose.

    “I wonder how many years it can take before our own Emperor starts appointing horses to the Senate. Or would we notice?”

    Well, we’ve already sent the southern half of several (northbound) horses there.

  10. This whole discussion would be a lot more meaningful if actual facts and figures were used to make points instead of peoples’ biases or prejudices. I am not in favor of illegal immigration, but that doesn’t make it constitutional for Arizona to usurp federal authority, that doesn’t make it truthful to say that Mexican women are sneaking across the border to have babies, that doesn’t make it truthful to say that illegal immigrants are receiving Social Security. Assuming that some of you are college graduates, can’t we have some documentation for what you are saying?

  11. Mac:

    The issue of preemption of Federal Law is a serious one constitutionally. However, the Arizona law models Federal LAW. What it doesn’t model is the policy preferences of an Administration charged with implementing the LAW. (The Administration actively encourages State assistance in areas of immigration policy that support its preferences.)

    Administration policy does not stand on the same constitutional footing as Federal Law. Is the constitutionality of the Arizona law going to switch each time we have a Presidential election that changes the party of the President? This is among the issues that the courts (ultimately the Supremes) will decide.

    Again, my earlier reference to Emperors and Senates and political power plays comes to mind.

  12. I’m in the medical field, so will limit my “facts and figures” to that:

    – Anecdotally, I see uninsured illegal aliens nearly every day I’m in my office. I see them out of a concern for caring for my fellowman, but there are actual costs associated with that. Each new patient costs me around $25-30 in malpractice insurance in case I’m sue by that patient. I also have costs for studies, a PA, personnel, rent, insurance, etc. And not only do I not get paid, but by law, I am required to personally pay for a translator. So, yes, there are very real costs associated with illegal aliens.

    – While many illegal aliens are gainfully employed, it is estimated that nearly 60% of them are uninsured compared with 25% of legal immigrants and 15% of native citizens.

    – Hospitals, by law, cannot turn anyone away from the ER for financial reasons, and cannot ask about whether someone is here legally or illegally. On a personal basis, this again helps serve all people. On a very real financial basis, many hospitals along the border lose tens of millions annually on unreimbursed care for illegal aliens. In Texas, illegal aliens are estimated to cost hospitals $1.3 billion annually. In CA it is $1.4 billion. In Arizona, around 1/3 of free care is provided to illegal immigrants. Arizona has a $4 billion budget deficit. Most studies show that half goes for funding for illegal aliens – healthcare, schooling, jail. All but one level I trauma center in Tuscon has closed down, basically because they couldn’t afford to continue providing tens and hundred of millions of dollars in unreimbursed care annually per federal requirements. In Dallas, half of the pregnant women at Parkland Hospital are here illegally. We pay for all of their prenatal and natal care, and then their children automatically become citizens with us paying for the costs of providing medical care, education, food assistance, etc. It goes on.

    So, very real costs, for which the money doesn’t magically appear. It is just passed on to everyone else. Some of it is higher premiums as hospitals try to recoup some of the money. Some of it is higher taxes as Emergency Medicaid (a state program with some federal help) is estimated to pay over 25% of its costs in care for illegal immigrants. The costs – in healthcare alone, are in the billions annually. These costs are paid by everyone in the United States legally. I will leave it to someone else to come up with any other costs.

    The hard part – I, along with everyone I know, went into medicine because of a desire to help people. I see people without insurance. I see all comers. But the costs are real. They have to be paid by all of us. That is why we have laws and rules and regulations. We need to back the rules we have, and then lobby to change them if we don’t like them. That is how this country works.

  13. “Having a satirist testify in character on an issue where there is a need for serious debate, beats Elmo by a bulbous orange nose.” Of course, this might be the only thing that would render C-SPAN watchable.

  14. #10 — “but that doesn’t make it constitutional for Arizona to usurp federal authority”

    I was more than a little surprised at Judge Bolton’s ruling, because there is ample case authority that allows states to enforce federal law, including laws affecting immigration and aliens. True, states can’t create their own immigration policy — e.g., they couldn’t write their own law about who can or can’t come into the country — but Arizona’s law was specifically crafted to exactly parallel federal law.

    Judge Bolton’s novel theory was that even if the state law doesn’t actually conflict* with federal law, if the federal administration in power decides on a policy of selective or non-enforcement, a state’s undertaking to enforce the federal law the federal government has decided not to bother with, violates the Supremacy Clause. I’m not aware of any preemption doctrine cases that have ever used this argument before. Ordinarily, for there to be a preemption issue, there has to be a conflict between state law and federal law, not state law and (transitory) federal policy..

    Conflict preemption exists when “compliance with both State and federal law is impossible, or…the state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” Congress, that is — not the executive. The executive can’t say “Hey, you’re being an obstacle to my being an obstacle to carrying out the objectives of Congress!”

    *The decision didn’t apply the separate document of “field” preemption, where a federal statutory scheme is so thorough as to completely “occupy the field” of the subject regulated, so states can’t legislate in that area even if their laws don’t conflict with the federal scheme; Supreme Court precedent is that the only areas of laws touching aliens where federal law occupies the field are (1) who can enter the U.S., and (2) under what conditions a legal resident can remain.

    Re: Social Security, it’s correct that illegal immigrants can’t (legally) collect Social Security benefits. Emphasis on “legally”; fraud is endemic, but there’s never been a good calculation of how much money goes to people who aren’t entitled to it. If it’s like Medicare, the answer is “a lot” — ten percent or more. But there are plenty of other benefits illegal immigrants do receive, like Medicaid, WIC, emergency medical care, etc.

    Re: “birth tourism,” based on what may be an erroneous interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s citizenship clause, there’s no credible doubt that it happens. ( What’s not known is its extent.

  15. Given the fact that AZ is disproportionately impacted by illegal immigration, it’s hypocritical (to say the least) for the federal government to argue with AZ for enforcing federal law. I’m not saying that law is perfect, but it’s high time the federal government quit ignoring the plight of states like AZ. Federal govt turning a blind eye to illegal immigration takes a workforce of willing, able-bodied people and turns them into a drain on the system, allows for criminal activity to flourish, and prevents the state from collecting taxes from a large part of the workforce (because an illegal immigrant would be outing him/herself to declare employment).

    It’s as if the federal government would like to create another Michigan in Arizona.

  16. This one hits close to home for me right now. I just lost one of my best employees because of a new Federal e-verify system. His family moved here when he was 2, he grew up in US schools, went to a US college and was gainfully employed at our hospital. He paid US taxes during his time as a staff member and did not “suck the system dry”. I had to fire him because he isn’t a citizen and it was really painful. He had real skills that can’t be used in the US anymore.

    The problem is that there is no easy way for him to gain citizenship. The process to become a citizen is so time-consuming and expensive if it’s possible at all. We need to make the path to citizenship easier if we don’t want as many “illegals”.

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  19. Here in Australia we have a similar issue but our problem is a vast coastline and a not so vast fleet to patrol it. However, we do have all that water that stops all but the very committed from bothering. Even so, we have vigorous debates on our reposnibilities to provide refuge to those in danger and under threat. I fear its getting us nowhere, but the debates still occur.

    I really think if you’re going to get serious about illegal immigration in the U.S. you gotta do something about that big statue that says “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free”. Or at least add an addendum to the inscription! 🙂

  20. I was on a JTF mission while I was in the army working with the border patrol down around Deming, New Mexico in 2002. One of the senior border patrol guys stated that they had nabbed people from nearly every country in the world coming through that particular stretch of the border. The implications of that should be troubling… Hey Stephen, do you have a link to one of those simulations on the result of an entirely open border policy? I’d be interested in checkin that out… Thanks!

  21. Steve, this is a fascinating subject, and one I thought I’d visit at Pure Mormonism one day when musing upon why the Church seems to have abandoned the doctrine of The Gathering.

    But it seems Connor has beat me to it in his very thorough examination of the unconstitutionality of our modern immigration laws and how they conflict with what we always used to declare as an essential purpose of the Church, i.e. to gather all believers onto this continent.

    I confess that I STILL haven’t finished reading the whole piece myself, but the first third of it certainly satieted my long-held addiction for reading Supreme Court holdings.

    Once you get past the examples of established law on the matter, the analysis is really food for thought.

    Here ‘Tis:

  22. “illegal immigration”

    A major problem is when we say “illegal” to Mormons. Because from day one we are programmed to “choose the right” & “respect the laws of the land” and so on. So as soon as one says “illegal” most Mormons just shut down and say “if it’s ILLEGAL, then what are we discussing?”.

    Now if you were to talk instead about “employment-seeking immigrants” then this debate would be very different. And then if that “employment-seeking immigrant” works without a green card then you’d simply fine both worker and employer. We don’t need to add compassion or “am I my brother’s keeper” to the equation because the fine would be paid, the worker fired, and employers will soon realise that it’s better to employ legal residents to avoid the big fines. It really isn’t that complicated to do.

    And also, if the US would actually grant the correct amount of green cards each year to meet its demand, that is the demand for cheap labour its economy produces, then the incentive to try your luck crossing a desert or swimming that river simply wouldn’t exist. You don’t need a massive fence if things were done right as they are in many other countries around the world.

  23. Carlos’ view reminds me of something our previous bishop used to say. He was a lead foot, and someone asked, “Don’t you believe in obeying the laws of the land?” He said, “I pay all my speeding tickets.”

  24. And also, if the US would actually grant the correct amount of green cards each year to meet its demand, that is the demand for cheap labour its economy produces…”

    That assumes that demand for cheap helot labor is something that the official policy of the United States ought to be aimed at satisfying. We could also increase the supply of cheap labor, for instance, by abolishing the minimum wage and child labor laws. What an unrestrained economy might demand, is not necessarily what a commonwealth needs.

    We don’t need to add compassion or “am I my brother’s keeper” to the equation because the fine would be paid, the worker fired, and employers will soon realise that it’s better to employ legal residents to avoid the big fines. It really isn’t that complicated to do.

    You’d think. And yet implementing an even moderately fraud-proof verification system, like E-Verify, gets the open borders crowd up in arms as if we were requiring people to get the mark of the beast stamped on their foreheads. The present system’s openness to fraud is a feature, not a bug.

  25. “That assumes that demand for cheap helot labor is something that the official policy of the United States ought to be aimed at satisfying.”

    Not necessarily. It just means that you look at overall stats and, thinking about population growth also, vary the amount of green cards each year. But my understanding is that for skilled and non-skilled workers the quota is 40,000 a year and 50,000 for the lottery plus family reunions etc, when for eg Australia’s worker intake is up at 115,000 per year after a cut last year plus family reunions plus business visas -but the Australian economy is barely a 10th of what the US is (and it hasn’t had recession since ’91) and only has 24million people.

    You see a similar scenario when you look at places like Italy (388,000) Germany and Japan. It’s little wonder then that a man can undertake that dangerous walk across a desert, then when he is all dirty and disheveled, stand on some street corner and get picked up to do construction labour work! the demand for his labour still exists whether he is legal or illegal.

    “You’d think. And yet implementing an even moderately fraud-proof verification system, like E-Verify, gets the open borders crowd… “

    That’s the other side of the coin which is rather amazing for foreigners like me. Its rather amazing that in the US -where computers where invented and who lead the world in IT- that they can’t do things better, cross checking all information from bank accounts to immigration roles. They seem to do it when its for ‘national security’ but for immigration….nah, its too complicated for them!

  26. “which is rather amazing…”

    Only amazing if you overlook the likelihood that the inefficiency is intentional. They’re taking a dive, because they don’t want the law enforced.

    Re: the numbers set for legal immigration, I’d trade a higher quota in a heartbeat for effective enforcement.

  27. However, the problem is multi-faceted.

    1) We have our own “welfare” culture in this country, with all colours (the white, black, brown, yellow, red, calico, etc) of paying people, under one guise or another, to NOT WORK. Top that with almost forcibly retiring perfectly useful seniors (or relegating them to becoming Wal-Mart greeters), creating the expectation that age is a reason to not work (glad the GAs don’t feel that way!). Then we bring about unreasonable employment regulations and other mandated expenses that drive up the cost of labor. Finally, by force-feeding minimum wages, we place an artificial floor on labor. All these things conspire to leave a whole lot of work NOT being done by Americans. And don’t EVEN get me started on the multitudes of Government workers at all levels that don’t actually work (But kudos to the many that do and do well!).
    2) The “illegals” (many from Estados Unidos De Mexico, but also from practically every locale) fill that employment void. Since most of it is “grunt” work anyway, they compete in a “race to the bottom” scenario with their respective employers perfectly willing to exploit them. Also, in some fields, it’s so dog-eat-dog in today’s economy that it’s either use illegal cheap labor or go under. My own son-in-law can hardly find work in his trade (floors and carpet installation) not merely due to wage competition but also most of the contractors that can find work won’t hire Anglos…they can’t be messed around with (ex, getting paid for eight hours but working twelve and having to “rebate” a fourth or a third of their wages to their labor “contractor” who in turns kicks some back to the employer). We’re seeing a destruction of our working class, especially in the trades, thanks to the unwillingness of the Government to enforce even current immigration law (this from a staunch Libertarian).
    3) For reasons (1) and (2), the USA has no need for a cadre of “guest workers”, or braceros. This is NOT 1943, and we don’t need every “swinging thingie” (ref: Platoon, 1986) in the Army to go “over-there” and give Hitler some “what-fer”. There needs to be, if anything, an immigration MORATORIUM, and an earnest effort to deport any illegal that can’t show in a demonstrable fashion that their presence contributes to America. If there’s to be ANY Amnesty, it should be solely on the basis of the good of the country and not given to any sob-stories. Then we need to systematically dismantle all the give-aways and disincentives to work and excel and get the country pulling its own weight again. (rah rah).

  28. “There needs to be, if anything, an immigration MORATORIUM, and an earnest effort to deport any illegal that can’t show in a demonstrable fashion that their presence contributes to America.”

    Do that and you’ll see a double dip recession, best scenario, worst is an full blown depression. No economy would survive if you get rid of about, what? 12 to maybe 20 million illegals? But I’d agree with you about almost forcing people to retire and how easy it is for employers to exploit workers there. But that’s one of the consequences of destroying the trade union movement over the last 4 or 5 decades -another of the GOP great achievements.

  29. 25 Carlos,

    Good point. Members deserve to be told the difference between “Legal” and “Lawful”.

    Legal is whatever worldly governments decide upon. “Lawful” is what God permits.

    For example, Marijuana has been deemed illegal by earthly governments. But God created it as a lawful remedy. It has a purpose that those who would control us refuse to recognize.

    Some local ordinances in my area have outlawed yard sales at the behest of the local flea market. But God allows us to do as we wish with our property, so under God’s law if I want to sell something to my neighbor, it is perfectly lawful to do so.

    God’s law trumps man’s law, BTW.

  30. Doug — your thoughts reflect the populist and usually Democratic Party approach in the past. What is amazing is that the Republicans have switched over and the Democrats are now on the other side. Interesting to watch from the outside, yet not terribly comforting to live through.

    Consider this old party platform, whose do you think it was?

    Foreign immigration which in the past has added so much to the wealth, resources, and increase of power to this nation … the asylum of the oppressed of all nations … should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy.

    carlos — indeed, you and Thomas describe the confluence that is going on that encourages a sub rosa flow of illegals who can be exploited rather than a better regulated and approached reform that is the sort of thing that George W. Bush was pushing for.

    Rock, it is an interesting article, but I think the 14th Amendment to the Constitution pretty much sews up federal power claims.

    All — I appreciate that the comments have been civil and respectful.

    In writing this I had in mind a deceased friend who was in the United States to obtain medical care (which he and his wife paid for) that was not available to him at home. It made a difference of about twenty years of life for him before he finally died, the entire time paying taxes. I also thought of the wife of a Haitian judge that I met. She had been abducted, beaten and raped in order to attempt to coerce her husband and fled Haiti. Had she been able to come directly to the United States she would have qualified for asylum, but I’m pretty sure she had to have a connecting flight. She was working as a nanny when I met her. Her employer fired her when she investigated the LDS Church and I did not see her again (I met her through her employer).

    The issues are difficult and wrenching.

    An interesting series of articles on the subject can be found here:

  31. “But that’s one of the consequences of destroying the trade union movement over the last 4 or 5 decades -another of the GOP great achievements.”

    Alternatively, the trade union power of the 1950s, where a man could earn a high-middle-class wage for the totally unskilled labor of pushing a button every few minutes, was only possible in the unique historical confluence of an economy whose competitors had just been bombed into gravel, and were depending on American industry to rebuild themselves.

    You could also argue that unions won virtually everything that unionism was capable of winning (and sustaining in the face of global competition), and so succeeded itself into redundancy.

  32. I think that my answers could elicit some quite harsh reactions among my LDS brethren, but here goes (if anyone reads these any longer):

    First, I take my cue for the true meaning of “inheritance” from the D&C. It is ludicrous that people can pass off — tax free! — huge parcels of wealth to their descendants, who haven’t learned to work. The only “inheritance” we have a right to is what our family needs to make a living (that also happens to be the ecologically sound way of seeing it).

    Nation-state is a dinosaur that can go the way of dinosaurs. They are the biggest single impediment for a fairer distribution of labor and wealth in the world. And, let’s face it, we’ll never have peace as long as there are the kinds of gaps in standards of life at nation-state borders such as those between the USA and Mexico, or some examples from Eastern Europe.

    The two last points can be answered in one definite answer: We most certainly do have an obligation to those people, who live in the other side of the World. It is impossible to isolate the effects of soil erosion, atmospheric pollution or global warming, which is, in fact, happening no matter what is causing it in the end. And I mean voluntary redistribution before it’s made into a forced one by there being a few hundred million who have much, much more than they need and billions outside their borders who barely survive from day to day. Read Mosiah 4 as regards who has “earned” our help; the indictment of selfish greed in there is given in no uncertain terms: “you may say to yourself, ‘this man has earned his suffering, therefore I will restrain my hand…'” etc.

    In practice, I guess the final scene will be the ushering in of the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Then, there will be no poor, for the rich are made low. Why would Jesus say it’s difficult for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom if he didn’t mean it?

  33. Though I do need to add that when Christ was talking to the disciples, the assumption they were working on was that the rich were the most likely to be saved. That is why when he says it is hard for a rich man to be saved, they respond with “who then can be saved [if not the rich]?” rather than shrugging “of course.” Christ’s response is interesting as well, “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” indicating that no one can be saved, but for God.

  34. “…global warming, which is, in fact, happening no matter what is causing it in the end.”

    Not for the past decade. And historically, a warmer climate causes less stress on civilization, not more. It’s when it gets cold that things get ugly.

  35. #36 (Velska) – yew wanted to stir things up? Yewgotit! The other’s responded well to most of your assertions, to which I add:

    How can you arrongantly assume that the scions of the wealthy are somehow undeserving of their parents’ means? Or that their character is of necessity deficient simply because they were born to wealth and privlege? And WHO, pray tell, shall redistribute my (in the eyes of most liberals, presumably ill-gotten) means once I assume room temperature? Or whose business is it to determine how much is necessary for my family to exist on and what is therefore “excess”? True, I can’t take it with me, but I ought to be able to ensure that what I’m laboring for and taking risks at least can be placed in the hands of those that I deem most worthy of it. To do otherwise infringes upon MY property rights to a degree that I thought that our Consitution (made a worthless scrap of paper by big Government demagogues) was intended to protect.

    I’m hardly in a position to speculate on the economic model of the Celestial Kingdom but I’m fairly certain that it won’t rely on the dishonarable notion that wealth is to be taken from those that perform and (ala the late John Housemann) “urrnn it!” to rewards those that don’t due to their timidity, incomptence, or indolence. OTOH, we don’t have to wait for the eternities, we can give freely of our substance as King Benjamin exhorted his subjects to do. To the extent that big, meddlesome Government doesn’t involves itself in our affairs (oppressive taxes and stifling regulation), we can and should do that.

  36. Doug — I used the term inheritance because it shows up in the scriptures time and time again. I find it causes me pause when I think through issues.

    Thomas — now don’t let sunspot activity and global temperature declines put you off of other issues (such as rising co2 levels in the ocean) … though you are right, I remember when a major Soviet project was decried in the 70s because it would cause localized warming in Siberia and the Soviets did not see that as a downside to what they were trying to do.

    It would be interesting if warming would bring back the inland sea in the United States and the heavy rainfall to the north Sahara. I’d really like better modeling, better predictive approaches and better useful thoughts on the subject.

  37. “It would be interesting if warming would bring back the inland sea in the United States and the heavy rainfall to the north Sahara.”

    It would be interesting, but it would take a hella lot more powerful climate-forcing agent than a marginal increase in a not-particularly-greenhouse-potent trace gas, to pull that off.

    It’s always fun to be lectured on science (not talking about you here) by people who don’t know a feedback from the absorption spectrum, and have no idea what black body radiation is, but are pretty sure it refers to something racist.

    My understanding is basically as follows: Double atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and you ought to expect about a degree C of warming. The scale is logarithmic — to get another degree, you need to double the doubled amount, i.e., add twice as much as you added to get the last degree. To get the multi-degree C warming you need to invoke all the alarmist scenarios, you need to burn more carbon than there is (probably) fossil carbon fuel recoverable.

    Alternatively, you need to assume — in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary — that from than 1 degree C or so of CO2-driven warming, you get tremendous positive feedback effects, and virtually no negative feedbacks. I’ve yet to see a convincing scientific justification for that one. I’m just a humble amateur, but here’s what I see: The earth is substantially cooler than we ought to expect from the natural, pre-industrial “greenhouse effect” (mostly from water vapor and natural sources of CO2). Therefore, why is it not the default assumption that negative feedbacks are more powerful than positive feedbacks — and that, therefore, we should expect even less than 1 degree C of warming from each doubling of atmospheric CO2?

  38. A couple of comments:

    Regarding illegal aliens: There need to be rules and laws in any structured group of people. In the Church, we have a handbook of instructions, etc. In the United States, we have various federal, state and local laws. We also have mechanisms for changing laws with which we disagree, at least in the government model. We can choose to ignore the laws, but if everyone ignored whatever laws they disagreed with, our society would me more disorganized, more dangerous, and less efficient. The Church recognizes this as well, hence correlation and the strict enforcement of the hierarchal model in the Church throughout the world. Local leaders and members are NOT free to ignore any laws they want (assuming they want to remain a part of the organization).

    Our current laws are designed to control our borders for various reasons: national security, protection of jobs for US citizens, etc. We actually have much less control than many other countries, including much of Europe where it is even more difficult to get a work permit, etc. and where even missionaries have to register with the local police station every time they move.

    We can ignore the laws, but that is the definition of “illegal”. It is a life based on a dishonest premise. Granted, it may be the lesser of two evils, but it does ignore the basis of a society when laws are ignored.

  39. Second comment, regarding inheritance / buildup of capital:

    This is the basis of capitalism. If there is not a mechanism to pass along “wealth” or a business or something similar, it goes against the essence of capitalism. And even the Church buys into this model on an institutional basis. According to the Church’s humanitarian website, over the past 25+ years, the Church has averaged between $15-40 million per year in humanitarian aid, depending on whether you count actual cash spent or if you include the “free labor” given by members and “in-kind” donations as a cash value. In any event, just as a baseline, the Church gives in the tens of millions for humanitarian needs.

    Contrast this with the capital creation of the Church. It owns billions in real estate. It collects billions annually from its members. It owns businesses and ranches and private hunting preserves. It has amassed enough capital that it is spending $3 BILLION on the most expensive mall in the United States without having to finance any of it or rely on donations, but instead claims that it is essentially funded through profits on other business ventures.

    So, the Church can build billion dollar malls, yet only “redistribute” in humanitarian ways amounts in the tens of millions (or around 1-2%). Given this model of our own Church, we too should only pay 1-2% in inheritance taxes to “redistribute” and retain the rest for someone else to invest in something else down the road.

  40. #44 – You may be laboring under some misconceptions.

    1) Most of the “billions” in RE that the Church owns is for meetinghouses, Church Educational System facilities (the BYUs, Institutes, Seminaries, etc.), and temples, all of which are money “sinks” (maintenance and fees where appropriate). What other RE owned by the Corporation of the President, CoJCoLDS is managed by Property Reserve, Inc. and may or may not be generating revenue and is as subject to taxation as property owned by anyone else. In many cases, this has saved the Church huge amounts by acquiring far less expensively than it would otherwise be if they had to do it everytime a new project was implemented.

    2) The Church collects “billions” (I would guess less than in the tens of billions annually but since the Church hasn’t issued public reports in the USA since 1959, we’ve no way to know) and it SPENDS them just about as rapidly. All those thousands of meetinghouses, over a hundred temples, etc. all need utilities and maintenance. Never mind the travel costs for a force of 53,000 missionaries. As for the businesses, ranch(es) (UR thinking perhaps of the Deseret Ranch in FL?), and private hunting reserves (where? The Church is trying to ‘muscle out’ Ted Nugent, perhaps?), their “book” value and the revenue they all generate would pale in comparison to the tithes and other offerings.

    3) You’re likely referring to the City Creek Center. A Wikipedia article:

    No financial data was cited in the article. Where do you get the $3B figure? Please state your source(s), the amount seems highly questionable.

    You probably have little idea of how much available cash the Church has to “redistribute”, but likely what you cite as “1% to 2%” has no basis in fact. I do agree that what we choose to bequeath (or inherit) should likewise be lightly taxed (I say not at all, it’s tatamount to theft for the Government to grab the wealth that someone has amassed over his lifetime, in spite of efforts to take it during that life, contrary to the wishes of the departed for its disposition). The Church does provide for a “humanitarian aid” slot on the tithing and offerings slip as well as we have the fast offerings avialable. Tithes are meant for the work of the LORD directly or other appropriate uses (not building shopping malls) as the Council on the Disposition of Tithes is so inspired.

    Finally, as the late President Hinckley said, the true “wealth” of the Church is in the time, talents, and devotion of its members.

  41. I didn’t read all of the comments, so I apologize if someone has brought this up already.

    I highly recommend Lant Pritchett’s book “Let Their People Come”. He is an LDS scholar at Harvard, and his book is fantastic. He is very pro-immigration, for a few reasons. Among others:

    1. Immigration is, by far, the most effective way to give aid to the world’s poor. The benefits of the mobility of goods and services (i.e., free trade) are widely accepted and practiced. Nation-states restrict labor mobility, however – to the detriment of the world’s poor.

    2. Immigration doesn’t hurt, or at least doesn’t hurt very much, the receiving countries. The data shows that fear-mongering about immigrants stealing jobs is overblown. While there may be some economic downside to huge waves of immigration, in general immigration is a net positive.

    3. Many countries simply do not have the resources to support their populations, and no amount of foreign aid can fix that. The only solution is to let some of those people leave.

    4. Anti-immigration problems are immoral. Pritchett argues that moral laws are those which would be created even if we didn’t know which side of the law we would be on. For example, the requirement that people in court be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” is intended to ensure that we receive appropriate protection whether we are the victim or the accused.

    If we were making immigration laws without knowing whether or not we would be born as an American or a Mexican, would they really look like they do now?

    This was the argument that really hooked me. If we really saw Mexicans and Haitians truly as our brothers and sisters, equivalent to Americans, then would our immigration laws really look like they do?

    Pritchett is a pragmatist, and realizes that open borders are not in the cards. He suggests that for now we create a guest worker program, where immigrants can come to work in the US, without a path to citizenship, without access to schools, etc. There would still be plenty of people happy to come, even to grab a few scraps from the table of the American Dream. Shouldn’t we let them?

    Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It has really framed the way that I think about this subject.

  42. I realize your post is more than 8 months old, but I’m new to Mormon Matters and I wanted to post three articles to help answer your question.  They are both from my Immigration Law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Howard Chang.  He has a PhD in Economics from M.I.T., an M.S. in Public Policy from Princeton, and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law.  He is the reason I chose Penn for law school.The Economics of International Labor Migration and the Case for Global Distributive Justice in Liberal Political Theory, 41 CORNELL INT’L L.J. 1 (2008).

    Immigration Restrictions as Residential Segregation, 28 IMMIGR. & NAT’LITY L. REV. 453 (2007).

    Immigration Restrictions as Employment Discrimination, 24 IMMIGR. & NATIONALITY L. REV. 445 (2003).

    The first of the three will lay out the theory and connect the dots better than the first two, though they are similar arguments.  I added the last two mostly for the sake of their titles.  Sidestepping the question of what duty you owe the average Haitian (I just got back and assure you we owe them a duty), the second two articles might ask the question:  I am a natural born citizen of the U.S., and what duty do you owe me?  If I want to hire the most talented applicant, do you have the right to require me to hire a less qualified person because of the accident of being born in the U.S.?  And even if we assume for the sake of argument that you have a right to live in a segregated community, do you have the right to require me to live in such a community?  Don’t, rather, you owe me a duty to let me choose my associations?

  43. I never really thought I would be questioning a position of the Church. But, here we go; the Church supports the Utah Compact. Apparently the Church tells its members that there are no boarders when it comes to the children of God. That really sounds good if we were living in a translated celestialised world. Unfortunately we still live in a telestial world; this world requires laws, rules and regulations in order to make sure that stability is maintained. Fortunately we live in a God given country that allows us “We The People” to elect persons to make or change laws. At the present time, whether you like it or not or not, immigration laws are in place.  These laws are in place to protect the boarders of this country.  Latter-Day Saints even have a scripture that reflects their love for the law.
    12We believe in being asubject to bkings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in cobeying, honoring, and sustaining the dlaw.
    How can we “obey, honor and sustain the law” when our leaders seem to be looking the other way when it comes to sustaining immigration laws.  

    1. Our immigration laws are complex.  In fact, there is no such thing as “illegal immigrant” in the law.  That’s too simplistic.  For instance, not everyone who came here legally gets to stay, and not everyone who came here illegally has to leave.

      You’re right to bring up that our laws are made by people.  They are constantly up for re-negotiation.  They could become more strict or less strict.  They could become more racist, or less racist.  They could become more cognizant of economics or less so, etc.If you’re interested in having a back and forth that is respectful and productive, I would be willing to play the other half, and would promise to be respectful too.

  44. Old article, but I am new here.

    Hello Stephen!

    I think this illegal immigrant situation is fascinating

    There is no doubt in my mind we need these people here in America.  Racism seems to be a large component of the negativity toward these immigrants.  BUT.. there is also a component of fear that we will somehow lose our culture and become like that mindlessly disorganized and deeply corrupt entity south of the Border.

    Frankly I love these people who come here and want to see them come — but I also fear that loss of “America”

    I am convinced the answer is in three parts.

    1.  We must have a method for having these people come here, prove themselves worthy and prove that they are a positive addition and then make them citizens as soon as we can.  And we need a certain number each year to meet the demand for work we have.  (I know that sounds odd in times of unemployment, but I am talking about time periods of decades — we will soon not have enough workers).  We also need to find ways to HELP them bring their families with them so that the families will be sound and strong and help make America stronger and better.

    2.  We have to culturally assimilate them so that the best parts of them can strengthen the US while the best parts of the US do not decay and fall away.  In some respects this means we can only handle so many new immigrants per year.  This needs to be balanced.  It also means that we need to INSIST that they learn to read and speak English fluently and that they renounce ALL claims of citizenship anywhere else — on pains of losing all Social Security and Medicare benefits if they renege on that deal.   

    3.  We must make Citizenship a big deal — not given just because you are born here, and not just something that lets you vote.  It must have real, substantial, tangible economic benefits to make it valuable.  This may result in a two tier system — but the goal of that two tier system is to motivate desirable guests in our country to stay and become PART of us, not merely hangers on. 

    I somewhat disagree with the Church’s stand on this.  

    1. I know you’re busy on the other topic, but I’d like to hear your response.  And in light of your willingness to tattoo yourself purple if it advanced the gospel, and your belief that it is not your job to determine how best to do that, could you also include in your response how you reconcile that sentiment with the statement that you “somewhat disagree with the Chrch’s stand on this”?  Thanks.

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