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'Troubled' by forced separation of families, LDS Church calls for 'rational, compassionate' immigration solutions

FILE - LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 18, 2008.
FILE - LDS Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 18, 2008.
Tom Smart

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church said Monday that the forced separation of children from parents on the U.S. border harms families and called for rational, compassionate solutions.

"The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children," said Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families."

The statement came amid a growing tumult Monday over the Trump administration's decision last month to try to deter illegal border crossings by prosecuting parents who cross illegally with their children.

President Donald Trump himself called the practice "so sad" on Monday, but said it would continue until Congress passes immigration reform legislation. Stories about family separations, meetings early this week between the president and lawmakers, and scheduled House votes later this week have combined to intensify debate.

The LDS Church has long endorsed the idea of comprehensive immigration reform and has said since at least 2010 that reform should strengthen families and keep them together.

"While we recognize the right of all nations to enforce their laws and secure their borders, we encourage our national leaders to take swift action to correct this situation and seek for rational, compassionate solutions," Hawkins said in Monday's LDS statement.

In 2010, the church announced support for the Utah Compact, a call for legislative solutions based on a handful of principles, including the humane, inclusive treatment of all people and keeping families together while acknowledging that governments have the right to secure borders.

"Strong families are the foundation of successful communities," the compact stated. "We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all ... children."