SALT LAKE CITY — A statement just released from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirms the federal government's role in enforcing immigration laws, and suggests that any state legislation that only contains enforcement provisions is likely to fall short.
The LDS Church said it supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work, without it necessarily leading toward citizenship.
The statement goes on to say the church supports a balanced and civil approach to immigration reform "fully consistent with its tradition of compassion" with "reverence for family and commitment to law."
"Any policy that contemplates targeting any one group should give us pause," the statement says.
The much-anticipated statement is significant, as the issues surrounding immigration continue to dominate Utah's people and politics.
For people in the Hispanic community, the statement is a powerful milepost in the immigration debate.
"I think it's a very significant statement, especially considering the climate, the political climate," said Hispanic community leader Archie Archuleta.
The timing is also significant because a lot of people are interested in the state's new guest worker law, HB116. Some people see it as too lenient, and some state Republicans are looking to pass a resolution to change it at the upcoming state convention.
Utah is the first state to enact laws to let illegal workers remain in the state along with their families. Gov. Gary Herbert was among those who trumpeted it as the "Utah solution," a way to strike a balance.
Conservatives -- those who feel there should be a zero tolerance policy on immigration issues -- are pushing to change HB116, saying it's providing amnesty.
The Church's statement acknowledges the problems created by a lack of a federal government solution, calling current situation "unsustainable."
But the statement also says that a "bedrock moral issue for the Church is how we treat each others as children of God."
Enforcement provisions, the statement says, are likely to fall short of that high moral standard of treating each other as children of God. It calls for compassion and a balanced, civil approach.
CLICK HERE to read the entire statement.
Story written by Becky Bruce and Richard Piatt.