Saturday, May 14, 2011

The LDS church and immigration

I've had a difficult time over the last few years reconciling my beliefs about immigration with those of other members of the church.  Obviously, being married to an immigrant, and having many friends of different statuses within the immigrant community informs my opinions.  I decided to blog about it after reading this piece in the huffington post:

I guess I just have to agree with the leadership on this one.  I don't see what it is about being an illegal immigrant that makes you a bad person.  Speeding is just as illegal, and more dangerous, but most of us do it, and no one judges us as bad people for doing it.  Of the dozens of people who are immigrants that i know, I can't make any judgments about their character and see them reflected in their legal status. 

The reason for laws about immigration, as far as I can tell, is to prevent overwhelming short term immigration that would create economic difficulties due to extreme growth.  To a lesser extent, I think it's possible that these laws are in place to protect 'culture' or prevent overpopulation.  The US, from what I know is number 179 out of 240 countries in density.  This according to  Really we've got plenty of space in the United States.  One of the most important variables in judging the overall power and influence of any country is the size of its population.  A huge adjustment is taking place right now, where more populous countries like China, India, and Brazil are increasing in power and influence, while less populous countries with the traditional advantages of Western democracy and capitalism are becoming less powerful and influential by comparison.  So will a larger population harm the United States?  I don't believe so. 

As far as protecting the American culture I personally have no concern.  People say that previous groups assimilated, while the Latino migration has not.  That's true today, but it won't be in 50 years.  Previous groups went through the same steps as the Latino migrants will.  First generation migrants adjust to the new culture.  Younger migrants learn English, older ones don't.  ALL OF THEIR CHILDREN LEARN ENGLISH!!!  Almost all of those that don't wish they did, or wish they could.  When I taught English as a Second Language, there were some pretty old people trying to learn.  Many of them couldn't.  But they all wanted to.  In either case, the children learn English.  Not all of the children learn Spanish, which is sad.  In any case, within a couple of generations, they will be like us.  Only distinguishable by physical features and last names. 

I don't think you can find any period in history where a non-violent migration has taken place to populated areas, when the migrants take on the roles of the lower and middle classes, and then they changed the official language and the culture of the rich and powerful group that was already there.  It doesn't make sense. 

There are people that will claim that the Latinos are all criminals and that are afraid of them.  But think of the archetypal thug.  Who is it?  A younger guy.  Maybe you associated a different race to him.  Maybe you didn't.  Is 80 year old Grandma latina woman going to rob you?  No.  If you want to be biased and afraid of anyone, be afraid of males ages 18-25.  Race is a much less important predictor than sex and age for crime.  So why do we use race instead of age and gender?  It allows us to focus on the characteristic about "them" that's different from "us."  About half of us have been males of that age range.  The other half know males of that age range.  But we don't want it to be "our" problem.  It's somebody else's problem, and if we can identify "them" visually, so much the better, right?  It's so much easier than having to deal with "us" having a problem that "we" need to deal with. 

Another crime variable is socio-economic status (SES).  Now, consider that, of the recent large scale migration, a large percentage of migrants are males.  A large percentage of migrants are young.  A large percentage of migrants don't have a high SES.  Should we expect crime rates for "immigrants" to be higher?  Yes.  Are they higher?  No.  Here are some statistics:,8599,1717575,00.html  1st generation Mexican immigrants 45% less likely to commit violent crime.  2nd generation immigrants 22% less likely to commit violent crime.  Immigrants that have their documentation in order are much less likely to be criminals than those of us that were born in the USA.  Immigrants that are not legal know that if they are caught in a crime, they'll get deported.  My experience has been that illegal immigrants are here because they want to work and get ahead in life, and they won't jeopardize that with crime.  Here's another article that reviews research that shows that the cities with the biggest immigrant influx had the biggest decreases in crime rates. 

The actual act of crossing into the country illegally, or overstaying a visa, is illegal.  I don't suggest anyone do it.  But at the end of the day, like speeding, or stepping onto private property, it doesn't make you a bad person. 

1 comment:

keevinwho said...

The new church handbook encourages members to stay in their home country and discourages US citizens from sponsoring....In the 60's all blacks were criminals or welfare cases. We all look at the lowest common denominator. We had an Italian family move into our hood in the 60's. The kids assimilated. The parents eventually did. The grandma refused and was isolated....Not only the sheer #s are different today but there were no bi-lingual programs for previous groups. It makes life not learn the language. We all make poor choices which seem the "best" thing to do at the time, but we eventually suffer the consequences. Its unfair that other family members have to suffer, but with the ineptitude of the federal government, I doubt anything is going to change.