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02-28-2012, 02:44 AM #1
Romney's at odds with Mormon Church on immigration
Romney's at odds with Mormon Church on immigration
Some Latinos who share the Republican's faith are distanced by his tough view on the subject. The church has been a voice for moderate border policies in the Southwest.
Mitt Romney shakes hands with Kid Rock after addressing supporters in Royal Oak, Mich. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)
By Hector Becerra and Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times February 27, 2012, 5:48 p.m.
Reporting from Phoenix—
Celia Alejandra Alvarez spent three months in a Maricopa County jail after deputies arrested her and other illegal immigrants working at a landscaping business.
She said a saving grace during the "90 long days" three years ago were the visits and help she received from her "brothers" and "sisters" with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I had no other family," recalled Alvarez, a 33-year-old mother of four from Guanajuato, Mexico. "It was a beautiful thing to know that my children were cared for, that they were being fed. I know that if my husband had asked for financial help, they would have given it to him."
Yet Alvarez said she was not overjoyed at the prospect of fellow Mormon Mitt Romney becoming president because of his staunch stand against undocumented immigrants like herself.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is a front-runner to challenge President Obama in November, but many religious conservatives view his faith with suspicion. Supporters, however, can point to his stance on illegal immigration as an example of Romney not always aligning his beliefs with those of his church.
"If anyone ever levied the charge that he would make the presidency susceptible to the Church of Latter-day Saints' influence, this is one example where he's ignoring the church," said Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University. "His Mormonism is being used against him, and this is actually a chance for his supporters to show he's not beholden to his church."
Romney's campaign visit last week brought attention to Arizona's growing Latino immigrant Mormon community, and also to a church with a strong Republican presence in the Southwest that has had a moderating effect on the politics of illegal immigration.
The Mormon Church supported a law signed last year by Utah's governor that would essentially allow illegal immigrants to remain in the state if they worked and didn't commit crimes. It also joined other religious, political, civic and business leaders in supporting the Utah Compact, a set of principles intended to guide a balanced approach to illegal immigration.
"The LDS church itself is actually quite moderate — you might even say a voice of compassion — on the question of immigration," said David Campbell, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame.
According to the Pew Research Institute, about 7% of Mormons in the U.S. are Latino. But experts say they form the fastest-growing sector of the church.
In June, the Mormon Church acknowledged the problems caused by the "unchecked" flow of people across the border, but urged a "civil" approach to the illegal immigrants already in the country.
"The church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship," it said in a statement.
The church's outlier status and narrative of a people on the move also resonates with immigrants, said Ignacio Garcia, a Mexican-born professor of political science at BYU who converted to Mormonism when he was 15. He said some estimate that more than half the Latino Mormons in Arizona are illegal immigrants.
"The Mormon story is very much a migrant story, a story of becoming," he said. "People who are new to their communities and do not have established roots, and this includes a lot of immigrants, tend to be more open to religious conversion."
Bruce Merrill, a veteran pollster and emeritus professor at Arizona State University who is Mormon, said a large number of church members opposed illegal immigration, so Romney's position was far from unusual. But he said that in some cases, the church had made clear its displeasure with some members' overtly antagonistic gestures.
Such was the case with former state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mormon from Mesa, Ariz., who championed a bill that became the nation's toughest law against illegal immigrants. The move turned Pearce into one of Arizona's most popular politicians. But Merrill said Pearce's saber-rattling on this and other issues was a major reason he was voted out after Latino activists launched a recall.
He was replaced by another conservative Mormon Republican, but one who supported a more moderate approach to illegal immigration.
"The bishops don't preach from the pulpit, but they don't have to," Merrill said. "Being a Mormon is a way of life — you have meetings all week. They just let it be known that Pearce was an embarrassment to the church, and at a time they were trying to proselytize to the Hispanic community."
Many political observers said they expected Romney to soften his tone if he wins the nomination. Experts also point out that he is not alone, among politicians or people in general, in not adhering completely to the positions of his faith.
At times Romney has backed away from harder stands.
During the GOP debate in Arizona last week, Romney was asked whether he agreed with popular Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that illegal immigrants in the country should be deported. He ignored the question and instead talked about a far less controversial measure.
Because of their large Mormon populations, Arizona and Utah are two states where Romney's faith is an asset. The Mormon Latino community is too small to make a difference in an election, experts say, especially because so many can't vote. But some Latino Mormons have demonstrated at his events.
Alvarez, who avoided deportation and now works in home care assisting the elderly, said many Mormon immigrants wouldn't speak out for fear of being deported.
She said she couldn't reconcile Romney's position on illegal immigration with the teachings of their shared church, which she says has shown only love to her.
"If the president would be someone who believes … what he does about us, I wouldn't be proud," Alvarez said, "even if he was a Mormon."
Mitt Romney's immigration stance at odds with Mormon Church - latimes.com
02-28-2012, 10:10 AM #2Alvarez, who avoided deportation and now works in home care assisting the elderly, said many Mormon immigrants wouldn't speak out for fear of being deported."Too bad ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation." Henry Kissinger