September 10, 2010 by The Mormon Worker
Below is another essay regarding the immigration law that may be coming to Utah. Members of the Mormon Worker are participating in actions here in Salt Lake to resist this new racist law. If you would like to help out, please email us at email@example.com. Thanks!
An emotionally charged debate over immigration erupted in Utah last month when State Senator Stephen Sandstrom (Rep.-Orem) introduced a bill in the state legislature that would bring Arizona’s controversial new immigration law to Utah. Supporters of the bill argue that Utah law enforcement officials need to do what the Federal Government seems unwilling or unable to do: deport larger numbers of undocumented workers from the US who have come to this country without permission. The bill would require police officers to check the immigration status of any one that they reasonably suspect is residing and/or working in the country illegally, and report the names of these people to federal agents, in the hope of increasing deportations.
In my view, Stephen Sandstroms bill should be opposed, as arguments in support of it rest on several false assumptions: 1) Illegal immigration will lead to the collapse of the rule of law in America, thus threatening our democratic political system, and consequently, our very way of life, 2) Illegal immigration causes rampant identity theft, 3) It is unfair for citizens of the US to pay for social services, such as education, for the children of people who came here illegally.
Let me address these concerns in turn. The first argument, that illegal immigration is a threat to the rule of law, assumes that once someone breaks the law to enter the US or begin working in the US illegally, he or she will certainly break many (or all!) other US laws, thus causing our society to rapidly descend into chaos and lawlessness. In fact, according to Time Magazine, the violent crime rates in America’s largest cities have drastically fallen over the last twenty years, despite unprecedented levels of immigration, both legal and illegal. Also, if illegal immigration necessarily led to lawlessness, I find it strange that the man in Salt Lake City most responsible for preventing crime, Police Chief Chris Burbank, opposes the kind of immigration legislation Stephen Sandstrom is introducing, predicting that the legislation will in fact result in an increase crime. In fact forcing the police to enforce such a bill would put an unreasonable burden on them, distracting them from more important matters, as well as disrupt the cooperation between the police and the hispanic community that is necessary to solve crimes.
Second, illegal immigration does not cause identity theft. Identity theft is when someone steals your name, social security number, address, birth date, and other personal information in order to impersonate you. This allows them to access your bank accounts and steal your money, fraudulently open credit cards in your name, then run up a huge bill they intend not to pay, and ruin your credit, reputation, and otherwise cause a huge mess that is a nightmare for you to clean up. When undocumented workers use a random social security number, they pay for a fake social security card with their own name on it, and use it to gain employment. They are not impersonating anyone, (it would not make sense for a brown skinned Mexican who cannot speak English to show a potential employer a social security card with the name Alice Johnson on it) and do not know the name of the person that number actually belongs to. The consequence of undocumented workers using such social security cards is that they pay social security tax, and their employer pays payroll tax. It does not harm the person whose social security number is being used.
Third, the argument that it is unfair for current citizens to bear the burden of paying for social services for those residing in the country illegally, is morally questionable, given that almost all current US citizens are descendants of immigrants that also imposed huge costs on the population then residing in this country. For example, white settler immigrants from Europe caused the virtual extinction of the Native American population through the spread of disease, the confiscation of Native lands, and through violence, thus making the country spacious for new settlement. The cost to us of paying to educate the children of undocumented workers, for example, pales in comparison to the cost the Native Americans had to pay for us to now enjoy living in this country.
Also, this cost is offset by the money undocumented workers pay into the social security system (benefits of which they never see), and the money they pay in property tax (which typically funds education). This property tax is paid either directly by undocumented workers who own homes, or indirectly (by those who pay rent to landlords who then pay the property tax). Finally, the children of undocumented workers will grow up to become productive members of society, and will pay a great deal in taxes to fund future services for others over the course of their lifetimes. To refuse to educate them when they are young will likely lead to increases in crime and social decay.
Finally, as Mormons we must remember that our pioneer forefathers came to Utah (then part of Mexico) to escape violence, poverty and persecution, and in order to make a better life for themselves. These are the very conditions our undocumented brothers and sisters (many of whom are themselves Mormon) face when fleeing Mexico and other Central American countries. These people come here to work hard and make a better life for themselves and for their children. So while they may be breaking the law, it is hardly appropriate for us as Mormons to “cast the first stone” and, like Stephen Sandstrom and his supporters, seek to deport more and more of our brothers and sisters who have come to this great state in much the same way our pioneer forefathers did.