To some it's about compassion and fairness; to some it's about the law; and to others it's about the work force and the economy. It's immigration policy. And now Utah has added the voice of the business community to those of church leaders and social organizations.
This conflict is triggered by the dramatic changes brought about by globalization, which has now made our public policies which once served us well ineffective, and which pits citizens against each other. It is encouraging to see our businesses, religious leaders and others coming together to find ways to solve the problem of immigration. They realize the need to renew public policies so they solve today's problems consistent with our cherished values. "One purpose of social change is to find new solutions that will preserve old values." (John W. Gardner)
Last week, Lane Beattie, the president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, kicked off the Immigration Policy Coalition, composed of business leaders from the state's key organizations, along with religious, service and nonprofit organizations. The IPC's purpose is "to advocate sensible and balanced immigration reform." He called for support for state Sen. Scott Jenkins' bill, SB97, which would create a legislative task force to study immigration thoroughly and which also is supported by the Sutherland Institute.
Beattie said immigration is a complex issue and its reform should be done using "the carpenter's motto: Measure twice, cut once. We support efforts to protect our borders, improve worker verification systems and enact a temporary guest-worker program. Those of us in the business community care about the human interests at stake. Many of the policy choices impact families and children, which in turn would have implications on social services, health care and business. We must recognize that our policies have very real human and family implications."
It is encouraging to see our community leaders from various segments come together to thwart the draconian solutions such as those being proposed by some legislators, which only diminish us as a caring society. America has always seen immigration as a means of meeting our work-force and economic needs. We should advocate for and renew immigration policies that are consistent with our values and promote the public good rather than allowing others to mold the debate with their negative, one-size solutions. Rather than blame Washington politicians for our outdated immigration laws and do nothing, we should do what we Utahns have always done roll up our sleeves and solve our own problems. After all, the solutions are not in Washington; they're in local communities like ours. Utah could lead the way.
The IPC might do well to take a broad approach in carrying out its mission. It ought to focus on reforming the state's employment and economic policies for today's global economy and see immigration as an integral component of reform that allows for a flexible work force. In the end, what is at stake in the debate about immigration is the soul of our society and how we live the common values we created that hold us together the belief in the dignity and worth of every individual.The success of the IPC's efforts to renew our economy and work force to integrate our immigration policies in a humane and successful way will depend upon its ability to mobilize the good will of all Utahns so our policies reflect values that have always been the hallmark of our state. Each of us must play a part in supporting our leaders who have taken on one of the most important responsibilities, dealing with change that will preserve those values.
Utah native John Florez has founded several Hispanic civil rights organizations, served on the staff of Sen. Orrin Hatch and on more than 45 state, local and volunteer boards. He also has been deputy assistant secretary of labor. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org