Illegal Immigration? A Fence Along the Canadian Border Might Help

Illegal Immigration? A Fence Along the Canadian Border Might Help October 1, 2015

Concerning Illegal immigration: divine law, natural law, positive law must be considered by Mormons and other religions that hold that helping the poor and displaced peoples is a fundamental tenet of their faith. This is a response to those concerned by the Mormon Church’s recently published statement intended to soften certain positions relative to illegal immigration (see Immigration: Church Issues New Statement http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/immigration-church-issues-new-statement).

As you know, divine law is law pronounced by God such as the Ten Commandments for those that subscribe to Abrahamic traditions. Natural law governs those rights naturally accessible to all humanity. John Locke’s baseline for natural law includes life, liberty, and property. Positive law are laws created by legislators such as House Bill 295. But what happens when divine laws (thou shalt assist the poor and the golden rule which is a common thread running through almost every world religion); natural laws (life, liberty, property), and positive laws (laws created by men and women as elected officials, kings, presidents, and governors) intersect and are in conflict with one another? This is what is happening with the immigration laws in many states and the United States generally.

Many well-intentioned people align with positions in support of reforming immigration laws and many well-intentioned people oppose, at some level, not reforming these laws (or even strengthening present immigration laws–such as building a formidable wall along the Mexican border–a somewhat curious position with racial implications unless you advocate a wall running along the American-Canadian border). Either way, I maintain that it is a straw man argument (placing your strongest position against your opponents weakest position) to suggest that the Mormon Church is duplicitous to advocate reform. Furthermore, given the injunction held by virtually every world religion that positive laws are suspended when human life is on the line.

So consider northern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras as examples. In many parts of these countries there is rampant corruption that has created conditions where exceptional violence, including murder, threaten the lives and livelihoods of myriads of people every day. Would you really deny these people (whose natural rights–life liberty property are threatened almost every day) to escape these circumstances? Or, at this intersection between natural law, divine law, and positive law, would you choose to reform the positive law? This is what I am advocating and this is what I believe the Mormon Church is advocating.

Finally, a very recognizable example from Mormon history (and there are many such examples). The twelfth Article of Faith, crafted in 1842, declares that obedience to positive law is a fundamental tenet of Mormonism. In 1844 Joseph Smith was ruthlessly attacked by a vicious mob posturing as guards and militia men in the name of the state of Illinois. They were commissioned to guard Carthage Jail by the governor of that state two years after the twelfth Article of Faith was published in the Times and Seasons by the prophet. In that light, do you think it was problematic for Joseph to receive a pistol that was smuggled into the Carthage Jail by fellow Mormons so that Joseph could protect his life, the lives of his friends, and his brother Hyrum? Here is the intersection between divine law, natural law, and positive law. It is rarely cut and dry. So, build a fence along the Mexican or Canadian border? I don’t think so, but continued measures, less formidable, do need to be employed by the federal government to manage the immigration issue. But such measures must acknowledge fundamental rights that are inalienable and guard the dignity of humanity no matter what borders are being considered.

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