Friday, April 29, 2011

LDS Church Branch President Felix Callejas And Immediate Family Arrested By ICE As Illegal Immigrants In Draper, Utah

Update June 13th: Felix Callejas and family departed the United States for El Salvador on June 13th.

This story has just been reported on August 29th, 2011 by KSL Channel 5, and full details are still forthcoming, but a branch president over a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Draper, Utah has been arrested for immigration violation, along with his entire immediate family. The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News have now picked up the story.

While KSL specifically reports that Felix Joaquin Callejas-Hernandez and his wife Luca Margarita Castillo de Callejas were arrested by ICE, the photo gallery accompanying the story shows their two adult children, Margarita Concepcion Callejas-Castillo and Jose Moroni Callejas-Castillo. Felix Castellas was the president of a Spanish-speaking branch of the Church located in Draper. He and his family were reportedly taken into custody by ICE agents at their Draper home on April 19th. The Tribune reports that Callejas is still on an ICE hold in their facility in Spanish Fork, but his wife and two children were booked and released. Callejas is from El Salvador. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

In checking the meetinghouse locator, I found that out of four different stakes in Draper, only one of them, the Draper Utah Eastridge Stake, contained a Spanish-speaking branch. That branch is identified as the Eastridge 9th Spanish Branch.

An interesting sidelight: On February 6th, 2011, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article entitled "Lawmakers’ talk of reform rattles undocumented SLC worker" which focused on the experiences of an illegal immigrant identified only as "Jorge" who was also an LDS branch president somewhere in the Salt Lake Valley. However, this individual has four kids and came from Mexico, so it's not Felix Callejas.

Self-appointed local Latino activist Tony Yapias, director of Projecto Latino de Utah and also an LDS member, said that Callejas had sought asylum through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services but had been denied. He also claims members of Callejas' branch are "devastated" by the news. The LDS Church haf not yet officially reacted to this story, but in their most recent pronouncement on immigration, they said that the Church’s position is based on three basic principles:

1. The commandment to love thy neighbor.
2. The importance of keeping families intact.
3. The federal government’s obligation to secure its borders.

The Church also stated that they do not favor establishing a path to citizenship for or granting amnesty to illegals, although in the same statement, they expressed support for allowing illegal immigrants to work legally, a position which is creating confusion among some people. Later, LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued the following statement: "This case reminds us all of the need to address immigration reform. As we have stated, we believe any solution should include the following three principles: the commandment to 'love thy neighbor,' the importance of keeping families intact and the federal government’s obligation to secure its border."

Because the Church tends to look upon illegal immigration as a civil trespass rather than a criminal violation, the Church is unlikely to take action against Felix Callejas' membership -- unless ICE determines that Callejas also used his position as branch president to facilitate illegal immigration by others. This means that Callejas won't be excommunicated, and is unlikely to be disfellowshipped. It's also possible that Callejas might appeal ICE's decision and be allowed to stay in the country, particularly if he could show that deportation to El Salvador would expose him to political persecution or danger from criminal gangs such as MS-13.

A commenter to the Deseret News story provides some more information on Callejas:

Brer Rabbit | 9:02 p.m. April 29, 2011 Spanish Fork, UT:
This man was a custodian at a Draper Charter School. Charter schools are taxpayer funded. I wonder who was in charge of doing the background check on him. In public schools, not only teachers undergo a background check, but so do other full time personnel such as custodians and bus drivers. Most good background checks would have picked up this illegal status. A background check that didn't find this must have been very sloppy.

When I worked for the Jordan School District they did checks on employees that had worked for years for the district. They picked up on several that had been arrested for DUI and other offenses. If an illegal alien could pass a background check for this charter school, so could any pedophile, and other serious criminals. I am not saying that this illegal alien is a dangerous criminal, but I am saying that a poor background check was done

If this illegal alien was hired after July 1,2009 it means that this charter school was not using E-Verify as required by Utah Law 63G-11-103


Shawz Family said...

In the post you quoted from the last Church statement

"The Church also stated that they do not favor establishing a path to citizenship for or granting amnesty to illegals."

However, you did not include the part of this statement where the church supports allowing those here illegally to work legally. Here is the full quote.

"The February 28 Deseret News editorial, "A Model For The Nation" also accurately reflects the position of the Church regarding immigration reform, including measures that will allow those who are now here illegally to work legally, provide for their families and become better contributing members of our community—but without establishing a path to citizenship or granting amnesty."

I believe by leaving out the first part of the statement, you are not providing the full stance the church has taken.

Jack Mormon said...

Thanks for bringing that up, but the Church still clearly has expressed its opposition to a path to citizenship or amnesty.

Perhaps they don't define "measures that will allow those who are here illegally to work legally" as amnesty. Obviously, if you are getting mixed signals, this is a dichotomy which should be resolved. I can see how one would get mixed signals from the entire statement.

Allowing those who are here illegally to work legally could be interpreted as a limited form of economic amnesty.

Jack Mormon said...

I have now updated my post to include that additional information, since that seems to be becoming a separate story in itself as published in the Provo Daily Herald.