Anonymous Utah Group Distributes Vigilante “Illegal Immigrant” Watchlist

An anonymous Utah group calling itself “Concerned Citizens of the United States” has compiled and distributed to government and media a watchlist of 1300 alleged illegal immigrant Latinos, including names, birthdates, workplaces, addresses, social security numbers, names of children, and, for pregnant women on the list, due dates.

The list was originally sent to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April, but when no response was observed Concern Citizens sent the list to a number of Utah sheriffs, police chiefs, legislators, and media outlets.

Governor Gary Herbert has called for an investigation to determine if state records were improperly accessed to compile the list.

In Utah, where conservative politics are dominated by the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it’s pretty safe to assume that a significant number of “Concerned Citizens of the United States” are Mormon.

But so too are a significant number of undocumented immigrants living in the American West. As we’ve reported here at RD, the Church’s strongest growth over the last decade has been among Latino populations, and almost 4.5 million Mormons worldwide are Spanish-speaking.

Economic downtimes and anti-immigrant outcry go hand-in-hand in American history. And even though Utah has a 7% unemployment rate significantly lower than the national average, anti-immigrant sentiment is running strong in the Beehive State. With a bill modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070 under construction and headed for the legislature, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently called for the LDS Church to weigh in on the matter.

For its part, the LDS Church has adopted an official stance on immigration that holds that immigration policy is the “province of government” but urges “compassion and careful reflection in matters affecting immigrants and their families.” The Church-owned Deseret News recently published a feature piece debunking myths about the social and economic harm anti-immigration activists attribute to undocumented immigrants.

Many members of the LDS Church who are most vocal in the call for undocumented immigrants to be prosecuted and deported point to our faith’s Twelfth Article of Faith—”We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, and in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”—as rationale for a strong rule-of-law stance against undocumented immigration.

But immigration, a matter that involves historically-propelled voluntary and involuntary mass movement across shifting and fabricated national boundaries, happens on a human scale that exceeds national law and begs global questions of human rights.

There is not an LDS Article of Faith that explicitly declares that the dignity and security of human life is a Mormon value.  However, Article of Faith 10 states that “we believe in the literal gathering of Israel” “upon the American continent,” and Article of Faith 13 states that we believe in being “benevolent” and “doing good to all men.” And one could quote a number of uniquely LDS scriptures from the Book of Mormon to cast new light on the human aspect of the immigration question, including King Benjamin’s timeless question in Mosiah 4:19: “are we not all beggars?”

Are we not all immigrants?  When Mormon pioneers—almost entirely European-American—arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, Utah did not yet belong to the United States: it belonged to Mexico. Were our pioneer ancestors illegal immigrants? And for those of us Mormons who like Joseph Smith himself have deep ancestral roots in New England and other early British North American colonies, were our colonist ancestors honoring the laws of host indigenous nations when they migrated to North America and occupied and expropriated indigenous land?

Mormons—Anglo, Latino, and otherwise—will continue to grapple with questions of law and human rights as the LDS Church matures into its global 21st century.