Understanding the Facts About Immigration

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A few weeks ago on a private message board that I participate on I had a bit of a meltdown, for lack of a better word. Let’s just say that my response to a fellow poster was less than Christian and leave it at that. I make no excuses; my response was “over the top” (as another fellow poster put it). However, in my defense I’ve only ever claimed to be Mormon and never claimed to be particular good at being a Mormon.

The topic which raised my ire was the question of the Church’s stance on immigration, and specifically illegal immigration. I will not rehash the Church’s stance here as it’s not really relevant to my post nor was it the focus of my ire on this particular equation. My problem came from the way another poster was talking about such immigrants and the “facts” that he cited in support of his claims.

Before I start this, I need to make a disclosure: I work and make my living as an immigration attorney. My practice focuses on the defense of immigrants, both legal and illegal, who are in removal (deportation) proceedings. I also practice a fair amount of criminal defense work trying to help immigrants who’ve had run-ins with the law in an attempt to salvage their immigration status. So, yes, I have some skin the game.

Let me, then, address a few issues immigration issues which are quite commonly misunderstood.

1. Illegal immigration (i.e. crossing the border without being admitted and inspected) is a criminal offense.

This one often comes from the defenders of illegal immigrants who claim that illegally crossing the border is a civil infraction and not a criminal offense. This is not true. 18 USC 1325 makes crossing the border illegally a crime. It states:

“(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts

Any alien who
(1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or
(2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or
(3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.”

Thus, illegally crossing the border is a crime with a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail. In Utah, where I reside, this would equate to a class B misdemeanor, or the second lowest level of crime which can be committed in Utah. Equivalent crimes would be driving without insurance or a license, shoplifting, simple assault, etc. In other words, while it is a crime, it is not considered a serious offense under the law. Furthermore, one of the reasons so many people believe that it is not a crime is because it is so seldom prosecuted in federal court. The vast majority of illegal immigrants who are caught in this country are placed into the immigration court system, which is completely separate from the criminal system.

I suspect that there is a fair degree of talk past each other that goes on in regards to this specific topic. If a person enters the country legally (i.e. with a visa of sort or as part of the visa waiver program) and then over stays her visa, that is not a criminal act but is, in fact, a civil violation. Since a good many illegal immigrants in this country arrived this way it’s a good bet that this is what many of the defenders are thinking of when they claim that it is not a crime.

Lastly, the “crime” begins and ends when the person crosses the border. Contrary to what many people think it is not an on-going violation. After an immigrant crossed the border illegally he or she begins to accrue “illegal presence” but the accrual of illegal presence is not, in and of itself, a crime.

2. There is no such thing as an “anchor baby.”

One of the more vile accusations that my fellow poster made was that many immigrants sneak into the country with the intent of having a child here in order to have that child become a U.S. citizen by virtue of his birth on U.S. soil. (See 14 Amendment, U.S. Constitution). These children are often derogatorily referred to as “anchor babies.” The reason for this is that many people believe that having a U.S. citizen child grants the parents some immigration benefit. However, anyone with a basic understanding of U.S. immigration law will know that this is patently untrue.

First, a U.S. citizen can file a relative petition for his or her foreign-born parents. However, he cannot do so until he reaches the age of 21. So, any immigrant who sneaks into the country with the hope of having a baby who will be able to get them legal status is in for a long wait.

Second, when the child reaches 21, he files a form known as an I-130. This is the basic relative petition and does nothing more than establish that a legitimate parent/child relationship exists between the petitioner child and the beneficiary parent. Once that petition is approved, the case is then sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). It is at this point that the actual request for a visa is submitted via the form DS-260. The NVC also requests the tax returns and W-2 from the Petitioner child for the past 3 years. This is because the child must establish that he is financially capable of supporting his parents.

Third, once the NVC has finished their processing of the case, the file is sent to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This is currently the only consulate that adjudicates these types of petitions and they are currently adjudicating approximately 90,000 a year. The consulate then sends a letter to the Parent, indicating the date and time of their visa interview.

It is at this point that things break down for the parent. First, they must leave the country and go to Mexico for the interview. At that interview, it is 100% guaranteed that they will be denied the visa. Why? Because the immigration act states that any person who enters the U.S. illegally and remains here for more than one year is barred from legal entry into the U.S. for a period of 10 years! (See INA §212(a)(9)(C)(i)).

In a normal situation there is a waiver available in this situation. People eligible for the waiver must show that if they are not allowed to return legally to the U.S. it will result in “extreme hardship” to the U.S. citizen petitioner. “Extreme Hardship” is a term of art which means a hardship which goes beyond the normal and typical hardships that a person would be expected to experience upon the deportation of a spouse or child. However, this waiver is only available to the spouse of a U.S. citizen or Resident, or the child of a U.S. citizen or resident. It is NOT available to the parents of a U.S. citizen.

So, after waiting 21 years, spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, the Parent travels to their home country only to discover that have a U.S. citizen child hasn’t afforded them any benefit. They must now wait outside of the country for 10 years before then can attempt to re-enter legally. Furthermore, if that U.S. citizen parent travelled back to Mexico for any length of time after residing illegally in the U.S. for more than one year then came back to the U.S., they face a life-time ban due to their multiple entries. The system is not exactly forgiving.

The only other instance in which having a U.S. born child can afford any relief to an illegal immigrant parent happens if the U.S. citizen parent has been caught by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and placed into a deportation proceeding. In that case, the parent might qualify for a form of relief known as “cancellation of removal”. If successful, this form of relief can result in the parent receiving their status as a Legal Permanent Resident. However, in order to qualify for this relief the immigrant must show: (1) that they have resided in the U.S. continually for now fewer than 10 years; (2) that they have qualifying U.S. citizen or Resident relative (parent, spouse or child); (3) they have no criminal convictions which disqualify them; (4) their removal would result in “extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship” to the qualifying relative(s).

This is a common form of relief sought in the immigration court. However, the burden of showing “extreme and exceptionally unusual hardship” is so heavy that fewer than 4000 people are granted this form of relief every year in U.S. immigration courts. Typically, such a showing can only be made when the U.S. citizen spouse, child or parent suffers from some serious illness or condition which can only be treated in the U.S. Due to the backlog in U.,S. immigration courts, it takes approximately 18-20 months for case to be presented and the only benefit that the U.S. parent gets during that time is a work permit which allows them to work legally during the pendency of their case and the appeal of their case should that become necessary. In other words, about the only benefit that having a U.S. citizen child will do in that instance is give the Parent between 2-4 years of legal work before they are removed from the country.

In short the “anchor baby” is nothing more than a racist myth which needs to be stamped out.

3. Illegal immigrants do not commit more crime nor are they a drain on the welfare system.

My fellow poster made some audacious claims about illegal immigrant crime rates. In fact, they just are  not true.


The same must be said for the claim that immigrants place a burden on the welfare system:


Also, it must be remembered that many of the children of immigrants are citizens and, as such, have a right to access the benefits for which are eligible.

I will make one concession here and it’s one that many defenders of illegal immigrants won’t like. In fact, the crimes of forgery and identity fraud are a problem among the illegal immigrant population. Many immigrants use fake and forged documents to obtain employment. There is simply no doubting this fact. However, most immigrants who use forged documents use their own name and simply invent a number at random to be their social security number. A much lower number actually steal the numbers and identities of others, however it is an issue. Also, the vast majority of illegal immigrants do pay their taxes. They do so by obtaining a taxpayer ID number from the IRS. You see, the IRS doesn’t care about your immigration status, they just want your money and so they’ve made it easy for people without proper documentation to pay their taxes. In six years of immigration work I have never had an immigrant client who did not pay taxes. Not a single one.

So, regardless of your political stand on this issue (and this post wasn’t really intended to sway you one way or the other), these are the facts that you should, at the very least, base your opinion on.

40 thoughts on “Understanding the Facts About Immigration

  1. dangerdad

    You may want to update your knowledge on how things work in teh broken state of CA. Though Anchor Babies (yes, they exist, and it’s an intentional criticism) don’t give their parents citizenship rights, it does give them government aid to feed their american citizen child.

    Also, splitting up families is so mean, we routinely see stories in CA of illegal parents not being deported because of their children.

    Please don’t continue the intentional and evil (yep, calling you evil here) act of muddying legal and illegal immigration. If you were in my ward, I’d call you out publicly.

  2. Lance Starr Post author

    “Update my knowledge?” I’m not sure what that means. By law, American citizens have the right to access the benefits made available by the state. So, if the law permit the children to access food stamps, etc., then they are completely within their rights in doing so. This does not make them “anchor babies” because that term means they had the child to give themselves some sort of advantage in staying here. That advantage simply doesn’t exist.

    As to parents not being deported because of children, if the parents have been placed in a removal proceeding the Immigration Judge has no choice but to remove them unless they qualify for some sort of relief (cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, etc). Recently, ICE placed its focus on criminal aliens and not so much on folks here illegally but who have not run afoul of the law. That change has not reduced the number of people being deported. Those numbers are at record highs.

    And contrary to your assertion, I didn’t say anything about “legal” immigration. My essay dealt solely with the issue of “illegal” immigration. Illegal immigrants arrive in two ways 1. by crossing the border illegally; and 2. by entering legally and then overstaying the visa. Therefore, it cannot be said that I muddied the waters because I didn’t even talk about legal immigration (and why would I? It’s legal). As for your assertion of that being evil, all I can do is quote the immortal of Inigo Montoya who said about that word: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”


  3. dangerdad

    Begin Quote
    Let me, then, address a few issues **immigration** issues which are quite commonly misunderstood.

    1. Illegal immigration (i.e. crossing the border without being admitted and inspected) is a criminal offense.
    End Quote

    “Immigration issues” is vastly broader than “illegal immigration issues”. My “immigration issues” are: more legal immigration, more deportation of illegals, more control at the border.

  4. dangerdad

    (Note: The illegal immigration issue is one of several that are causing me quite a crisis of faith at the moment–specifically, I can’t reconcile several policies of the church with doctrine. It’s sucked the joy entirely out of attending. My local leadership has given me nothing except “suck it up” and I’m stuck hating some other members of the ward. I’m taking it seriously enough to consider dropping attendance of all meetings other than Sacrament Meeting. Right now I’m only attending because of my wife and kids.)

  5. Lance Starr Post author

    Then I think your priorities are way out of whack. And what “doctrine” does the Church’s stance contravene? You need to be more specific if you want me to address your concerns.

  6. dangerdad

    So you admit then your intentional muddling of legal and illegal immigration?

    A of F 12 would be one. What federal laws can I violate and still have a valid temple recommend?

    How about identity theft? The vast majority of illegals who are working are committing a crime there too.

    And thanks for the “suck it up.” I was actually trying to engage in discussion. I guess I won’t find that here. Sigh.

    I firmly believe history will look on the church as being on the wrong side of this issue after the next civil war.

  7. tspack

    The sentence right below #3: “My fellow poster made some audacious claims about illegal immigrant crime rates. In fact, they just are true.”

    Is there a missing “not”?

  8. tspack

    dangerdad, illegally crossing a border or overstaying a visa is illegal because the state made it so, but it is not a moral failing. That makes all the difference in the world. Yes, there are all kinds of laws that fall in that category of state-mandated only, and in most cases (including immigration) we should follow them to encourage an orderly and safe society. But enforcing laws do not belong to the hands of the Church – any church. The church and – unless you happen to work in law enforcement or border patrol – it’s members should be focused charity, kindness, and becoming like Christ. (Law enforcement and border patrol employees should do that too, of course, but they also enforce the law.)

  9. mebutler

    If you have a problem with the 12th Article of Faith, then I suspect you’d have a problem with Brigham Young and John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant, all of whom flouted the federal anti-bigamy laws. And throw in several thousand other Mormon men and women who did the same.

    You claim that the “vast majority of illegals” are committing identity theft. How on earth do you know that? Is using a made-up social security number that just happens to be assigned to another person a crime? Perhaps you should research the law before making such assertions.

    And, I’m willing to guess that you at some point in your life have violated some law, for which you were not caught and punished. Would it be all right if we were to brand you an “illegal” and call you that the rest of your life–or at least until you have paid the appropriate price.

    Maybe you were looking for the other FAIR website–the so-called Federation for American Immigration Reform [sic]. You would likely find them to be more agreeable.

  10. Mike Parker

    Administrator’s note: The FAIR blog invites thoughtful, reasoned comments. Personal attacks — including referring to posters or commenters as “evil” — will not be tolerated. Those wishing to comment here should moderate their language and consider their tone before submitting. Comments that violate this policy will be removed and combative individuals will be banned from commenting.

    Thank you.

  11. Lance Starr Post author

    1. Are you reading what I actually wrote. I cannot be “muddling” legal and illegal immigration because I did not address “legal” immigration. I addressed the two ways in which a person can be here “illegally”. One of those ways is criminal, the other is not. I simply drew a distinction between the two.

    2. Yes, I assumed you were referring to the Article of Faith. So, do you condemn Joseph Smith with equal fervor for his continuance of the practice of plural marriage even though it was illegal in Illinois at that time? Do you condemn Brigham, John Taylor, Heber C. Kimball and all the other LDS leaders who continued to practice polygamy even after it was criminalized in the Utah territory?

    Regarding what laws you can violate and still hold a temple recommend, there are quite a few. Do you ever driver over the speed limit? That’s a class C misdemeanor, but I bet you’d be upset if your bishop or stake president took away your temple recommend for that reason. Have you ever driven your vehicle with an expired registration tag? Then you’ve committed a crime exactly on par with illegal entry into the country. That’s what you seem to be missing here…this is not considered a serious crime. Now, maybe you think it should be, and that’s a completely legitimate position to hold, but your argument in that case is with your legislators and representatives, not with the immigrants themselves.

    3. Again, did you read my essay? I specifically stated that forgery and identity fraud are serious issues. I don’t mean to minimize that and I don’t think that I did. I did, however, point out that most “forgery” means using the immigrant’s real name with a made up SSN#. No doubt there are more than a few who are using ID of other, real people,and that’s a serious issue. On the other hand, do you understand what these people are attempting to leave behind? They are fleeing from crushing poverty and corruption so embedded into their governments that for the most part, it’s simply accepted as the way things are. Put yourself on the other side of that fence where all you’ve go to do to get your wife and kids out of that life and maybe give them so hope and a future is jump a fence, put your name on card w/ a made up number and suddenly you can make 100X more money than you’ve ever made in your life, your kids will go to real schools, you don’t fear the police will arrest you for now reason and seek bribes, etc, and I bet you are one of the first ones over that wall.

    4. Where did I tell you to “suck it up”? I’m more than happy to engage in a conversation with you.

    5. How can showing some compassion and caring ever put you on the wrong side of an issue? Do you understand the difference between “malum en se” and “malum prohibidum”? This “crime” only a crime because we have legislated it as such. There is nothing inherently evil or wrong in crossing the border into another country. It’s wrong only because we have said it is.

    I would hope that as a member of Christ’s Church you could find a bit more charity in your heart.

  12. dangerdad

    Ah yes, I’m not charitable if I don’t condone illegal behavior. I don’t measure others’ charity by how much illegality they ignore. I don’t know why anyone would.

    When I was in Chile, people couldn’t be baptized if they weren’t married by law, even though divorce was illegal. Why couldn’t we just declare the laws of man to be unjust and allow them to be baptized? Some of these people had been living effectively as husband and wife for decades but couldn’t dissolve the marrige (via annulment) without lying in front of a judge and paying massive amounts of money to an attorney.

    Why do we insist that husbands pay child support? Isn’t that a law made up by men? What if the husband was abused by the wife but adjudicated unfairly?

    Why ignore this law just because many people like slave labor (just as the antebellum south did)?

    Why claim to obey the law when it is official policy to ignore the law?

    Why do you consider ignoring lawlessness to be charitable?

  13. breakingbrush

    The reason that illegals pay taxes is b/c they get refunds for more than they pay by claiming child tax credits. Often fraudulently. Iow they “pay” taxes b/c they make money off it. They aren’t contributing to the system.

  14. DavidF


    I think you bring up some legitimate points. However, I think your approach may be too literal.

    Of course we believe in obeying the law. Jesus taught people to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Jesus also broke Jewish law, which was the law of the land (certain actions on the Sabbath). He was able to parse between the laws that should be obeyed and supported while disagreeing with other laws (actually condemning some of them).

    Are immigration laws wrong? Well, probably not. They probably do need reform but that’s something else. Should we break them? Probably not. I would never encourage someone to help someone cross illegally. I don’t see the Church advocating that either.

    The Church’s positions is to basically remain uninvolved. Members who are illegal immigrants are treated the same as others. From a legal standpoint, churches do not have to take a position on the issue. In fact, as I am sure you know, churches, well, religious leaders, do not have to report to authorities things said in confidence, even if they have legal ramifications.

    I hope you can see, starting from the position the Savior took on taxes and doing things on Sabbath, that in at least some similar way there is a difference between demanding that a man pays child support on the one hand, while on the other hand not turning away illegal immigrants for a temple recommend on account of that infraction. Perhaps you disagree, but remember that the Savior *did* parse between certain laws. I’m not trying to tell you to “suck it up,” but may I suggest that you look for reasons why the Church may choose this same path from a Gospel-oriented perspective? Even if you feel you are playing devil’s advocate, I’d be interested to read any reasons you come up with (obviously refering to spiritual reasons, not other ones such as trying to pad baptismal numbers, as some critics have claimed).

  15. Lance Starr Post author

    Breakingbrush, this is patently false. Do you have any evidence to support this assertion? No, you don’t. Are you LDS? Would you really allow someone to make such a broad, unsupported claim against Mormons? Yet, when we talk our fellow human beings from these poor countries, all of the sudden an attack like this becomes okay. It’s not okay. You are simply loath to give any credit to these people that might make people favorably inclined to them. Your political dogma has become a religious doctrine unto itself. Is it true that some immigrants claim too many dependents on their taxes? Yes, I have seen this on occasion. In each case, the immigrant was indeed providing support to the person they claimed as a dependent. However, just providing support, no matter how much, is not sufficient to make someone a dependent for tax purposes. So, this is an error they commit. But, the vast majority of them didn’t actually make the error, their tax preparer did it and told them it was okay. In my practice, when we find that this has occurred, he alien is required to file amended taxes to correct the problem and make repayment to the IRS if that is needed.

    As for immigrants no contributing to the system, every study I’ve ever seen shows that illegal immigrants have an overall positive net impact on the system.

  16. terriebittner

    As I see it, the Church divides the illegal immigration issue into three parts. The first addresses the people who have not yet come–it advises them to stay in their home countries. The second addresses the legal issue: governments have a right to enforce their borders. The third addresses the humanitarian issue that is the natural field of churches: Once they are here, treat them like human beings, don’t judge, and don’t break up families. All three parts fit perfectly into LDS doctrine.

    There are some interesting aspects of this debate to consider. One is that I have read that at the time the Mormon pioneers came to Utah, you had to have a land grant to settle. The Mormons did not. If this is true, they were, in essence, illegal immigrants. What’s more–God told them to be illegal immigrants. This suggests He does not always consider breaking the law to be wrong, even though as a general principle, He does. The polygamy situation reenforces that idea.

    Secondly, the Book of Mormon says no one will enter this nation without God’s permission. This lends some interesting thought to the illegal immigration issue. When I was young, many people escaped from Russia illegally. They then entered the United States or Canada illegally, where they requested sanctuary. We treated them as heroes even though they’d broken the laws of both Russia and the US. We were okay with that because in those days, Russia was the enemy and when people escaped, it validated our image of them. We also respected people coming from Russia for a better life and for freedom. Many of the people objecting to people coming from Mexico were fine with illegals from Russia in those days. It’s a cultural issue.

    Having taught ESL at church and having listened to what people escaped, I can’t in all honesty sit in my warm house with plenty of food and lots of opportunity to change my life and still judge their choices. I am old enough now to no longer say with certainty I would never do this or that. If my children were in danger, I don’t know what decisions I might make.

    The Savior looks into the hearts and sees people as individuals. He didn’t judge us as groups and I don’t believe we should, either. There are many reasons for leaving a country–and many people have no legal path to follow. At least one of my former students would not have been allowed in, but once here, he was making great use of the opportunity to get the education he had been denied (without government assistance) and to make a life of contribution to the country. The Church doesn’t judge because we don’t know what God had in mind when He allowed these people to enter.

  17. Bill McGee

    dangerdad: you are riding a gospel hobby horse here, wherein you draw a thick black line where one doesn’t really exist and call one side good and the other side evil, and then obsess about whether others agree or disagree with your division. Too bad.

    Civil disobedience is as much a part of Mormon tradition (or doctrine, if you prefer) as is adhering to the laws of the land. Look at our history of declaring an end to polygamy in order to satisfy the demands of the government, while the practice continued under official consent well into the 20th century. There are many examples. Our current position on immigrants is in good and rich company.

    I can recommend you read “The Government of God” by John Taylor. Satan divides men (all children of God and brothers) against each other using political, social, and economic boundaries, and God is under no obligation to recognize any boundaries established by men that cause one set of His children to be arbitrarily divided from another, thereby allowing one group to prosper while another suffers.

  18. breakingbrush

    Here is some evidence.


    “You are simply loath to give any credit to these people that might make people favorably inclined to them. Your political dogma has become a religious doctrine unto itself.”

    So you figured out all this about me based on what I wrote? Okay….

    One question: In a monetary sense, do you think all illegals combined add to, or take away from the system? What do you actually believe?

  19. Greg Smith

    Are you not being charitable if you don’t “forgive illegal behavior”? Well, yes. We’re commanded to forgive all men and women. We need not justify their acts, or fail in our legal duties if we must enforce the law. But, forgive we must. And we all struggle to do so.

    Forgiveness is, it seems to me, every bit as much a gift of grace than being forgiven by God is. We often need his help to do so. (If it is hard to forgive illegal immigrants, how much harder to forgive a rapist, concentration camp guard, or mugger?)

    Moroni 7:48–we must pray for charity.

    We in the affluent west could well read the parables of the Pharisee and publican, or the unjust servant in this light. I say this not to condemn, but rather that such stories can sometmes pierce through, and we glumpse–if only for a moment–the radical alteration that the kingdom of God is intended to be.

  20. RFB

    If the church gives temple recommends to illegal aliens, and it does, and if it extends priesthood and other callings, which is also true, we would do well to examine our prejudices. What the church does or did in one country, Chile, is not necessarily what it does in another, such as the United States. If I understand my own covenants correctly, my primary allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. Ideally, there should be no conflict with the law of the land, but that is not always the case. Individual adjustments are made. But ultimately, we need to know Whose side we’re on.

  21. RFB

    breakingbrush asks an interesting question.

    In a monetary sense, do all illegal aliens combined take away or add to the system?

    I’d be very hesitant to use monetary value as the basis for making a moral decision, that is, how I treat someone. Somewhere I heard you can buy anything in this world for money. I don’t think so, but that’s one approach.

  22. Pingback: 30 November 2012 | MormonVoices

  23. breakingbrush

    I think it’s pretty obvious I wasn’t arguing that we should base moral decisions on money. That would be strange, right?

    Rather, I was challenging Lance’s claim that illegals are not a drain on the system.

    It honestly surprises me when people say this b/c there is so much evidence to the contrary. Note that Lance’s link that supposedly supports this claim is actually talking about “immigrants,” not illegal immigrants.

    So, what do you actually think RFB? Are illegals a drain on the system?

  24. Dr_Angel_Face

    Lance, do yourself a favor before posting a response and CALM DOWN!!! Every single one of your responses to someone who has a different opinion than you has been full of pride, anger, and hatred. Now to the meat of your posting…I agree with you that often times reality is truly different than what our emotions/prejudices allow us to believe. However, you stated that these are the “facts” in UT where you are an immigration lawyer and be that as it may they have some truth to them, they are not true for every state. One poster brought up CA. I live in the Dallas area where my brother is an ADA and 91% of the people he prosecutes are illegal aliens from Mexico. To my point, the facts in UT are X, in CA they are Y, and in TX they are Z. Also, please note that illegal aliens represent their “group” as you call it much like everyone else does. There are many kind hearted immigrants who are just looking for a better life as well as many criminals. So please don’t make the mistake that all are just looking for a better life. Many are but all are not.

    Finally, what in the world does your opinion on a political matter have to do with apologetics for the church? I am VERY, VERY disappointed that FAIR would allow this to be posted. Lance’s anger, emotion, and pride are exactly what our critics excuse us of…emotional, fact-less ad hominem attacks. I love FAIR and enjoy 99% of what it puts out but this posting is divisive and full of hatred. Please note that I agree with much of what Lance had to say but his delivery needs a little polishing. FAIR please remove Lance’s comments as this weakens our image when we need to actually defend the church and our doctrine.

  25. DavidF


    You have a good point. I too was wondering whether illegal immigrants are a drain on the economy. I did some digging.

    Here’s probably the best treatment on the topic. It doesn’t give a full analysis itself, but it debunks a lot of claims on how much illegal immigrants cost on the system.


    Do illegal immigrants get more in government assistance than they put in? Sure. Anyone in the bottom couple tax brackets do (although they get less than others in those tax brackets because they don’t have access to as many assistance programs). But just because poorer people take more than they get, in terms of a basic exchange between individual and government, doesn’t mean they don’t make major economic contributions that indirectly lead to more government wealth. Lance shared a link that shows that illegal immigrants contribute enormously to the US economy.

    Let’s say you have two identical United States. One has 310 million legal residents, one has 310 million residents, 10 million of which are illegal. But let’s suppose that among the 310 million legal residents in the first state, those last 10 million are equivalently as poor as the 10 million illegal residents in the second country, and therefore get every benefit the illegal residents get plus more because there are benefits only legal residents can get. Is one economy vastly stronger than the other? If so, which one, and why? Is my common sense approach wrong? Are we actually dealing with major economic issues, or are we dealing with economic spin based on other political (and, perhaps racist?) issues? I’m excited to hear others’ opinions on this matter.

  26. RFB

    In answer to breakingbrush’s question, do I think illegal aliens are a drain on the system, the answer is that anyone living in or near poverty is a drain on the finances of the county or state where they live, as well as federal government. Rightly or wrongly, the system was set up with a social safety net to protect everyone in need. You can argue all day how well or poorly that works. You can also find government spending you agree or disagree with. I can point to widespread welfare abuse by people who were born here. But I do not accept the economic argument as being the deciding factor in how to treat undocumented workers. There are moral factors, to include family values, that need to be considered. In my opinion, putting a price tag on human life is contrary to Christ’s teachings. I think we need to step back, take a deep breath, and try to get a broader picture. I think the church has done that and I support a compassionate approach. Our immigration system is broken, pure and simple.

  27. Lance Starr Post author

    Dr. Angel Face:

    Thank you for the advice. Being calm is always a good thing to be, especially in forum such as this. That being said, I was quite calm and rational when I wrote my initial essay and when I responded to the various posters who have asked questions and/or questioned my thesis. If you disagree, can you give some example of my “pride,” “anger,” or “hatred” so that I can respond directly to it.

    A couple of things, you make reference to you brother who is an ADA in Dallas and state that “91%” of the people he prosecutes are illegal aliens. First, I’m not sure how much weight I can give to such anecdotal evidence. Second, you claim seems to contradict the data from Dallas:

    The aggregate analysis of arrest data by race and ethnicity in the Dallas PMSA reveals the following:

    A total of 160,795 arrests were made during 2004, representing a 0.87% decline from the number of arrests in the previous year. In 2003, 162,211 arrests were made, representing a 6.50% increase above the 152,264 arrests made in 2002.
    Anglo arrestees represented 69.16% of the total number of arrestees in the Dallas PMSA in 2004 and 69.00% in 2003. While there was very little change in the percentage of Anglo arrestees from 2003 to 2004, between 2002 and 2003 the number of Anglo arrestees increased by 6.58%.
    African American arrestees represented 29.84% of the total arrestees in the Dallas PMSA in 2004 and 30.00% of the total arrestees in 2003. While there was very little change in the percentage of African American arrestees from 2003 to 2004, the number of African American arrestees increased by 6.26% between 2002 and 2003.
    Hispanic arrestees represented 22.40% of the total arrestees in 2004 and 23.00% in 2003. Between 2002 and 2003, the number of Hispanic arrestees increased by 5.39%.
    Arrestees classified in the Other racial category accounted for 0.99% of total arrests in the Dallas PMSA in 2004 and 0.97% in 2003. Between 2002 and 2003, the number of arrestees identified in this racial category increased by 10.16%.

    Granted, this data is bit dated, but I suspect it adequately represents the situation in Dallas as it stands right now. According to this, 22.4% of people arrested in Dallas were Hispanic. That pales in comparison to the almost 70% of whites that were arrested. I would suspect that if we looked it up, those numbers compare pretty well to the demographics of the Dallas area. I.e. I bet that Hispanics likely represent about 20-25% of the population of the area and are arrested, charged and convicted in numbers about equal to their representation in the population. While I don’t have the numbers at my fingers, I have seen reports which show the situation in California is about the same.

    Also, of course it’s true that not every immigrant who comes here is only looking for a better life. Such a grandiose claim on my part would be silly, which is why I made no such claim. I would assert that the vast majority of immigrants who come here do so looking for better life and fleeing the crushing poverty of their home countries, but that does not mean that they all do.

    Finally, you are correct in that my post was not directly “apologetic” but I was asked by a member of the FAIR Board to create this post due to my experience in the area and my knowledge of the law. The reason for the post was more of an apologetic against some members of the Church who criticize the Church for its moderate stand on immigration but who don’t fully understand the laws which under-gird the system. I’m sorry you were offended by it but I have no intention of removing it. As for my anger, emotion, and pride, I guess I just don’t see it. I think that my responses have been fairly moderate in tone, addressing the substance of the critique and not taking offense. Heck, one guy called me “evil” and I just blew that off.

    Nevertheless, thank you for your critique. It was appreciated.

  28. Lance Starr Post author

    One more note that I should have included in my original essay. Often, there is the claim that illegal immigrants should go home and “get in line.”

    1. For many people, there is no “line” get into. Unless an immigrant has a parent, child, spouse or sibling that is a U.S. resident or citizen, then their options for legal immigration are so limited as to be almost non-existent.

    2. For the parent or Spouse of a U.S. citizen there is no “line” to get into. These are considered “immediate relatives” and the visa for such people automatically available. This is also true for the minor children (under 21) of a U.S. citizen.

    3. The wait list for an adult who has been petitioned by a parent or sibling is currently between 16-20 years, depending on the category and the country of origin.

    Thus, you can see why the “get in line” trope is not exactly realistic.

  29. nathan000000

    Thanks for the informative article, Lance. It gives me a lot to mull over. It also means I need to learn more about how details vary across states. I do have one minor quibble:

    Lance Starr: If the law permit the children to access food stamps, etc., then they are completely within their rights in doing so. This does not make them “anchor babies” because that term means they had the child to give themselves some sort of advantage in staying here. That advantage simply doesn’t exist.

    If an illegal immigrant’s child is a source of food stamps for the family, wouldn’t you say that the child is giving the parents some sort of advantage? (I’m not saying that makes the case either way, but I did think it was a little inaccurate to say there’s no advantage to an illegal immigrant to have a citizen child.)

  30. Dr_Angel_Face

    Lance, if you would read my original response I stated that you needed to be calm in your responses to other people’s postings not your “article.” Also, I asked for your anger-filled comments to be removed not your “article.” Reading comprehension is a must for lawyers….do try it sometime. As far as your assertion that I am fabricating statistics to prove a point, I did none such thing. Also, we are in 2012 almost 2013, please update your arguments.

    Lance, you are attacking me for agreeing with much of what you had to say. My concern is with FAIR as a whole. FAIR helped me get through a tough time in my life/faith and I truly value its image in the public arena. This organization has a good mission i.e. defending the church and its doctrine not cramming political agendas down people’s throats and anger/hate filled responses to people who disagree with you. You state that you cannot see hatred, anger, and pride in your responses. Seriously? How about a little intellectual integrity here please. This is a touchy subject for you. You make your living doing this so please recognize (as you did in your “article”) that emotion clouds your judgment. Your behavior is damaging the image of the organization and the church. Please realize that and act accordingly.

  31. dangerdad

    After sleeping on it a bit, I need to apoligize for calling you evil. I also *did* miss your comments on document fraud for employment.

    However, I don’t find your arguments consistent, and your most recent post kind of puts the lie to your claim of “anchor baby” being a myth. Your point 2 above is precisely what happens when someone crosses illegally and has a baby. Bam, they’re in category 2.

    A quick question on forged SSN (or TaxIDs)… Last I filled out an I-9 I had to present an actual SS card — I don’t know what the details are for a resident alien, but I don’t think you can just “make up a number”. So what do you mean they just make up a number?

    Lance, what other laws can I ignore and be in good standing? (Note that my EQ pres said when he was on his mission in TX illegals could *not* get a temple recommend, so if his recollection is correct, this was a change in church policy sometime in the last 5-10 years.)

    Also, WRT AoF 12, how do you read D&C 58:21-22? Is the AoF false or D&C 58 false? Or do we just ignore them sometimes? Or what?

    Re: Greg Smith on “forgive” illegal behavior. I should have said “ignore” illegal behavior.

    Re: DavidF on “sabbath” laws. Jesus violation of the Sabbath laws was a relgious law. Paying taxes was a secular one.

  32. Lance Starr Post author


    With regards to your question about SSNs, I mean they literally make up a 9 digit number when the buy the fake SS card. Unless a company is using E-verify, they won’t know that the number is not legitimate. Since most forgeries these days are pretty good quality, you average HR employee doesn’t recognize it as a fake.

    That doesn’t mean they don’t eventually get caught. The employee pays his payroll taxes using the fake SSN #, and the IRS does check the # against the SS database. If the number comes back as illegitimate — or as belonging to someone else — then they send a “no match”letter to the employer. By law, the employer must let the employee know that is number didn’t match and then the employee has something like 30 days to present a valid number or the employer is required to terminate.

    Regarding you question about what laws you can violate and still be in good standing, well there’s a whole host of them. Do you lose your temple recommend every time you speed or get a speeding ticket? Have you ever driven with expired insurance or registration? These “crimes” are on par with the crime of “illegal entry”. Have you ever taken a prescription medication that was originally prescribed for your wife or other family member (the occasional Lortab, or Tylenol 3, or even just an antibiotic)? That’s a felony, yet you aren’t likely to lose any standing in the church for doing so.

    AoF 12 is statement of ideals. The fact is that we do believe in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law, but if the law is unjust in its application or its consequences, then what are we to do? Would you obey a lay that required you to spy on a loved one? I doubt it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand — and sympathize with — you argument. I just believe that the Gospel dictates that certain ideals trump a blind obedience to the law.

  33. Dr_Angel_Face

    DangerDad, please feel free to email me at UGLION5@gmail.com. I would love to chat with you and try to help you through this issue instead of arguing with you like Lance and the others are. Look, immigration is not my issue but I have/had issues with the church and would love to share my experiences with you and how I got/get over them. I want to help you…not try to prove that I am more intellectually capable than you unlike some of the so-called contributors to this board.

    Remember the church is run by imperfect people trying their best to run a complex, dynamic organization. Please don’t throw away all of the collective good that the church has to offer just because there are a few things that bother you NOW but may not bother you in 10-20 years.

  34. dangerdad

    Please stop it with the speeding ticket. When you’re stopped for speeding, you STOP SPEEDING. When you’re an illegal alien, you remain an illegal alien.

    So you skipped a step (or maybe I missed it?) with the fake SSN. They actually go to a forger to buy a fake document. Why don’t they just go to a forger to get a fake temple recommend? They clearly don’t care about the law, why should they care about the temple rules?

  35. Lance Starr Post author

    Actually, I should probably state that I don’t even know if the U.S. citizen children of immigrants qualify for food stamps specifically. As I recall, there is a work requirement for food stamps. I do know they can get child-specific help but I’m hesitant to specify which programs (I think WIC is one such).

    Also, the vast majority of immigrants that I work with are employed and working and, thus, can afford to pay their own way. That is not to say that some don’t abuse the system. I know for a fact they do, but it’s a small minority.

    Lastly, I think my argument was that having an citizen child grants few, if any “legal” options to the parent (ergo the “anchor baby” charge). I would admit that having a U.S. citizen child can, in some instances, provide some benefit.

  36. DavidF


    Your separation between religious and secular law is valid in the context of modern day society, but not so in Jesus’ day and time. True, the Jews couldn’t prosecute Jesus, because the Romans didn’t give them the kind of judiciary system allowable for it, but no one in Jesus’ day would have said that breaking Jewish law was not equivalent to breaking societal law. In the absence of the Romans, Jesus would have been prosecuted. Certainly He still would have done it. So when you pay attention to the context of the argument, the argument still holds. Jesus recognized laws to be obeyed and laws to be ignored. He did, in fact, uphold other Jewish laws that were true (e.g. the ten commandments). I think we can follow Jesus example and pay attention to laws that are right and just, and ones that we should not feel obligated to agree with. This argument could be taken too far (exhibit A: the Jehovah’s WItnesses), but I hope you see that it at least calls into question the most literal interpretation of AoF 12.

  37. Lance Starr Post author

    Dangerdad: you said:

    Please stop it with the speeding ticket. When you’re stopped for speeding, you STOP SPEEDING. When you’re an illegal alien, you remain an illegal alien.

    From a legal stand point, this is not true. As I stated in my essay, the crime of illegal entry begins and end when you cross the border. THAT is the crime. It’s just like speeding…it begins when you exceed the speed limit and ends when you drop below. You’re still guilty and the fact that you dropped below the limit doesn’t mitigate that fact. In the context of immigrants, being here illegally is not a crime. I already explained this. That’s why a person who entered legally then stayed after their visa expired is not guilty of a crime. A person who enters illegally is only guilty of illegal entry. His or her continued presence here is not the crime.

    Finally, dangerdad, I guess I’m just glad you that your aren’t my Bishop or Stake President. I don’t think I’d enjoy having you be the one to determine my worthiness to hold a temple recommend.

  38. Steve G

    I want to thank Lance and everyone else who has posted hear both pro and con. In my humble opinion this is one of the best articles on the legal side of this issue. I have done a fair amount of reading on this subject and I know first hand there is a lot of emotion around this topic. I also have a vested interest in topic. My son fell in love and married a young lady who happens to be undocumented. I know first hand how hard her parents work to take care of their family and to make the best life for them they can. They also have my only grandchild. I have read that there are two to three million families like my sons of mixed status. Even though my son is a a white US citizen and we make plenty of mony to make sure that they are never a burdon it seems like there is little we can do beside have her return to her country of origan and be bared from reentery for ten years and possibly get a waver. But that seems pretty risky.

  39. Mike Parker

    Administrator’s note: Comments on this post are now closed. At the FAIR blog we wish to avoid ongoing, contentious debates. Thank you to those who participated in this conversation.

Comments are closed.