Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some Mixed (and kinda mixed-up) Thoughts on Immigration

I must confess to being quite confused on the issue of illegal immigration.  There’s a lot of rhetoric going around, and most of it confuses real issues and problems.  It’s starting to boil over here in Utah.  Many people are pressuring legislators to act, and pressuring the church to make a stand.  Others are publishing lists of violators, and saying public prayers in Spanish.  A lot of anger flying around.  Here are some thoughts, based entirely on my own experiences.

Draw your own conclusion

1 - The Church’s Stand

The Church today issued a statement of its stand on immigration, prior to the Governor’s big summit meeting about the issue.  It was, as expected, pretty much a non-statement of neutrality.  Not only is that not surprising, it’s prudent, in my opinion.

A long time ago, when I lived in West Jordan, I was called as a stake missionary, and assigned to work in the local Spanish-speaking ward.  I met and worked with a lot of wonderful people there.  At one point, as a part of that calling, I attended a big conference in the chapel at temple square.  The theme of the conference was all about ministering and teaching to the hispanic population in the valley.  The conference was conducted by some mid-level general authority, and I can remember him saying (even though he made it clear that it was his own opinion) that he found it interesting that many people were immigrating to the state, and then finding the Gospel and being baptised. 

That struck me as well.  Much of the rhetoric focuses on the immigrants that come into the state and commit crimes and drain our social resources.  It doesn’t mention those that come in, and become productive and valued members of our communities.

2 - English

The other day, while I was up at the hospital with my son, a lady came in to clean out our room and empty our garbage cans.  It was clear to me after we exchanged a few words that she spoke Spanish and only a very little English.  I started conversing with her in Spanish, which I enjoy doing a lot.  It turned up in the conversation that she’s been living in Utah for 20 years, and had raised her family here.

OK, this is one of my gripes.  I can understand someone struggling with living in a new country, and having to learn a new language.  I did it, myself, when I did my mission in Honduras.  I can understand the frustrations of navigating foreign bureaucracies in a foreign language when you first arrive.  I’ve been there, done that.  It’s not easy, it’s not fun.

But after 20 years, you should be able to speak the language of the land where you live.

3 - Viva La Raza

I think that much of the problems that immigrants face when dealing with the majority population are made worse by the choices of the immigrants themselves.  As an example, I remember seeing a protest demonstration in downtown Salt Lake City a few years ago.  Local Latinos had gathered to express their frustrations.  Yes, they, too, are frustrated.

The gathering was peaceful, and essentially respectful.  But I noticed that they were all flying and waving Mexican flags.  Now I don’t have any problem with the Mexican flag, nor with people expressing their heritage.  But if you want to send the message that you want to be a part of the country, wouldn’t it have been a stronger statement to fly American flags?  If you want to assimilate, if you believe in the “great melting pot”, then join us.  Become American.  Not just in citizenship, but in your own personal demonstrations of your loyalty. 

4 - If It Ain’t Broke... Oh, wait...

I, personally, don’t have a lot of problems with Mexicans living and working in Utah.  I know that the issue has caused a lot of problems, but I’ve not had any problems with it myself.  I’d like to see a way established that it could all happen legally.  I would like to be seen as a friendly, welcoming country, even if that welcoming needs to be regulated to some extent.

I don’t know the answers.  Clearly what we’ve got going on right now isn’t working.  If we want to keep people out illegally, then we’re not doing a very good job of it.  If we want to welcome them in, that’s not working very functionally, either.  I do applaud the governor for his reaction to the “blacklist” mentioned earlier.  I also applaud the summit.  I hope that some good comes from it.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

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