When LDS missionaries arrive in Mexico, they are welcomed with open arms; when Mexicans arrive in Utah, they are despised and treated like criminals.
Those are the sentiments expressed by Raul Lopez-Vargas, spokesman for a group of Mexican nationals that wants President Felipe Calderon to suspend granting visas for LDS missionaries in Mexico.
The request is not an attack on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Instead, he said, the LDS Church needs to take a stance on the issue of immigration.
"We respect all religions and credos," Lopez-Vargas said. "We know that the people of the LDS Church are our friends."
The group, made up of mostly unaffiliated, documented and undocumented immigrants, said it noticed that all of the other religious denominations have supported and signed the Utah Compact, which pledges a civil approach to the issue of immigration.
However, Lopez-Vargas said, the LDS Church is the only denomination that did not sign the Utah Compact, yet it is the biggest religious entity in the state, and a majority of the Utah Legislature counts themselves as members.
The LDS Church did not have a comment regarding the request, but instead referred the public to the initial statement it released following the Utah Compact.
In its statement, the church said it "regards the declaration of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform. It is consistent with important principles for which we stand."
The immigrant group presented its request Monday in a letter to the Mexican Consul of Salt Lake City, which serves Utah, Idaho and a part of Wyoming. Rocio Valle with the Mexican Consulate said the consulate is not issuing a statement regarding the letter at this time.
Lopez-Vargas did not identify any additional members of the group or give an estimated number of people involved in drafting the letter. He said the group collected more than 100 signatures over the weekend in support of the letter.
The letter is in response to bills presented in the Utah Legislature this year, including a bill by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, which would implement an Arizona-style law in Utah.
"We are the target of a xenophobic and racist attack in this state," Lopez-Vargas said.
The group asks the Mexican government not to restore visas until the LDS Church and LDS elected officials call a meeting with the press promising to adhere to the Utah Compact and that elected officials who belong to the church should not introduce bills that infringe on the human rights of immigrants, their children and their families.
The letter also would require the state to demand that the U.S. Congress approve "just and comprehensive" immigration legislation.
Lopez-Vargas said the LDS Church possesses the moral authority to guide elected officials who are members of the church.
Saydi Rambal, an immigrant from Colombia and a member of the LDS Church, said there is a need for just and humane immigration reform, but she does not think the LDS Church has the power to influence the Legislature.
More importantly, she said it is not the church's place to get involved in this political matter.
"I don't know why they are mixing these two things," Rambal said. "I don't know why they are getting religion involved in politics."