A family in Layton, Utah faces deportation back to Belgium for illegal immigration to the US ten years ago. As reported in the Standard-Examiner, the van der spek family say they came to the US because of religious intolerance after they joined the LDS church. They are appealing for asylum.
When the van der spek family immigrated to the US, Belgium was facing a greater level of religious intolerance than right now. In 1997 the Belgian Parliamentary Commission on Cults was submitted to the Belgian Parliament. According to ReligiousTolerance.org, there were 189 religious organizations listed as cults, but the list was never officially recognized by Parliament. It is not unreasonable to conclude that by the year 2000 when the van der spek family immigrated that anti-minority-religion fever was probably still palpable. A US State Department Report details that in 2004 cooler heads prevailed, and the anti-minority-religion movement died down. The van der speks remember Belgium from a more intolerant time. I’m interested to follow their case and see if their request for asylum will hold up in 2011.
Most importantly the story of the van der speks highlights the problem with our current immigration laws. Their story is not unique. Many hard working people who come to America looking for freedom can be deported for being here without official authorization.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints should be very sensitive to this issue because Utah was populated by immigrants coming over with help of the LDS Perpetual Emigration Fund. Many converts to the LDS Church continue to immigrate to the religious homeland, but now many of those immigrants are coming from South America. Religious freedom and the freedom to pursue happiness are the original reasons for the establishment of our country, and the reason we love being Americans.original photo from the Standard Examiner