Both sides of the immigration debate are calling The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' statement on immigration a positive for them.
The LDS Church released a statement on Friday that said it discourages its members from overstaying a visa or entering any country without legal documentation. It went on to say that the church is concerned with any state legislation that contains only enforcement provisions, such as the Arizona immigration enforcement law, and showed what appears to be a sign of support of the guest worker program contained in Utah's House Bill 116, which is set to go into effect in 2013.
"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," said the statement issued by the church's public affairs department.
The statement also goes on to say that the issue will ultimately need to be resolved by the federal government.
While the statement appears to support H.B. 116, which includes a guest worker program and a law enforcement provision, supporters of a resolution to repeal the law (to be voted on during the state GOP convention Saturday) are saying the statement is what they want to hear from the church.
"This statement is probably the best statement the church has ever made," said Arturo Morales of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, a group that created a website calling for the repeal of the immigration law. "I don't see anything wrong with this statement at all."
Morales said the statement addressed a lot of key issues his group has been fighting for during the immigration debates that led to the creation of H.B. 116 but says the new law does not address what the church is asking for in the statement.
Morales said he would like to see a law that is crafted after the church's repentance process, first calling for illegal immigrants to recognize the problem they have of being in the country without proper permission and then creating a proper restitution process where they can become "clean."
Morales said that restitution would include a confession process for undocumented workers where they reveal what social security numbers they have been illegally using while in the country and pay fines or serve jail time for being in the country illegally. Then he says if there is a way for illegal immigrants to work legally without compromising wages and jobs for American citizens, he would support that law.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, one of the main crafters of H.B. 116, says that anyone that thinks the LDS Church's statement isn't a sign of support for H.B. 116 has a "tortured interpretation" of the statement.
"They have made it very clear of what the policy on immigration should be," Bramble said.
Bramble argued if one were to go over the church's statements on immigration, follow the church's support of the Utah Compact, and understand that Presiding Bishop of the Church H. David Burton was present at the signing of H.B. 116 as a sign of support, he believes the church paints a very clear picture of how it feels about H.B. 116.
He also notes opponents to the bill have said that without the church lobbying for the bill it would have never passed. Based on that argument Bramble said he is confused as to why those in opposition now say the church is opposed to the law.
"You can't have it both ways," he said.
H.B. 116 was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in March. The law has a start date of July 1, 2013. Supporters of the law are hoping the federal government will issue a waiver to the state of Utah to implement the guest-worker program by that date.
State Republican delegates will vote on a resolution calling for a repeal of the law at the State Republican convention on Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy.