The overall consensus at a forum on immigration issues Wednesday was that the "system is broke."

How to fix it, however, is a different story.

Opinions ran rampant during the discussion hosted by the mayor and KCPW Radio at the Main Library. Finding a solution wasn't the topic; it was more of an opportunity to voice concerns and keep an open dialogue, according to Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.

Anderson was booed and cheered for his political opinions on immigration in Utah and his involvement in the rallies during the past weekend. Some in attendance even promised he wouldn't be re-elected for how he felt.

"The current wink-and-nod policy wreaks havoc on working families," Anderson said. A new policy, he believes would be best served to provide national security, economic prosperity and compassion.

A crowd filled with members of Utah's Minuteman Project was hard-pressed to maintain dignity and civility during the discussion, in which a panel containing politicians, a professor, a naturalized citizen and a member of the Minuteman Project fielded questions and comments.

Most were audibly in agreement with the organization's plea to follow the rule of law. Panelist Barry Hatch, founder of former anti-immigration organization Save America, said the country is doomed if government continues allowing illegal immigrants to cross the borders.

"There really is no argument," he said. "We need to get active and stop what is going on in this country."

Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, noted the wide gap between various points of view.

"The 'American Dream' is predicated on citizenship meaning something," he said, voicing his support for secure borders. He said certain inalienable rights are due to those who came to this country legally — but on the other hand, tough issues surrounding working families and those who have been here long enough to become citizens are hard-pressed to find solutions.

"We can't deport citizens," he said.

Sylvia Haro, an executive with Zions Bank, spoke, saying her family came to Utah when she was young to "have a better life."

"If someone asked me if I were an illegal or an undocumented Mexican, I wouldn't have known what that meant," she said. "Is a 10-year-old girl considered a criminal? " She said it was not her dream to come to America, but she said she appreciates that she was "allowed an opportunity to lead a successful life and contribute to this great country."

Education, health care and documentation were some of the topics addressed by the public. Ed Rutan, a Park City resident, said that allowing the disconnect between laws and practice to continue is a "disrespect to the law."

Recruitment efforts and a heated argument between a couple of enraged audience members continued even after talk time was over. Several members of the panel were cornered by irritated audience members, but in all, Anderson said the forum was a success.

"Let us continue this dialogue . . . and find a good solution that promotes security," he said.


E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com