The American Constitution Society and BYU Law School welcomed Melissa Dalton-Bradford and Sharlee Glenn, co-founders of Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG), for a discussion regarding immigration and refugee policy. More than a policy discussion, the event served as a platform for sharing stories of the human lives affected by immigration policy and encouraging students to seek opportunities to aid immigrants and refugees.
Founded just last year, MWEG has grown into an organization of more than 6,000 women dedicated to a variety of political causes. When deciding the group’s position on issues, they ask themselves whether a policy, action, or proposal is both legal and ethical. If the answer is no, MWEG organizes in opposition through various forms of advocacy. For those stances they support, they organize to promote positive change. Their activities range from phone call and letter campaigns to legislators and government officials to organizing vigils. Because of its early efforts, the group is best known for its immigrant and refugee advocacy.
Dalton-Bradford has lived abroad for the last twenty-five years. About two years ago, she decided to use her writing background to capture the stories of refugees. Her project developed into the “Their Story is Our Story” campaign, the purpose of which is to spread awareness concerning the plight of refugees and ultimately shape national and international policy. Her involvement in the European refugee scene prompted Dalton-Bradford’s involvement with MWEG.
Like Dalton-Bradford, Glenn is driven by a passion to help and to use whatever power she has or can generate for good. As she explained, “With our privilege comes a platform to speak on behalf of others.” Like Dalton-Bradford, Glenn’s efforts have largely been focused on working with individuals. For Glenn, “It’s the stories of individual people that have the capacity to change hearts and minds.” Indeed, “storytelling is the best tool [we] have for positive change.”
Glenn shared a few of the stories that have shaped her worldview and the development of MWEG. From organizing prayer vigils at airports to contacting lawyers across the country, each of her stories illustrated ways in which the U.S. immigration system is broken. Too often, those who are contributing to society are targeted for deportation. These deportations have catastrophic effects on families and individuals. “How can we not use our voices, our privilege, to speak for these people?” That rhetorical question served as a challenge for all the students in attendance. As the speakers explained, even if a career in immigration law is not one’s charted path, people have a responsibility to advocate for and comfort those who lack the basic rights and freedoms that many too often take for granted.