Jerry Earl Johnston: Utahns will not copy Arizona's immigration law

Published: Saturday, May 1 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Today, a look at ethics.

The buzz in the Beehive State is Utah could pass a new immigration law similar to the one in Arizona.

There, anyone suspected of being in the United States without papers can be pulled in and detained. Critics call the law racist and cruel.

Here are five reasons why such a law will never pass in Utah.

1. Utah has thousands of active LDS members and members of other faiths who are here illegally. Many have children who were born here and are therefore U.S. citizens. The thought of one group of tithe-paying Mormons going after another group of tithe-paying Mormons is too unsavory. It flies in the face of Christian ideals.

Suspicion is the death of faith. And pitting Saint against Saint would create confusion and chaos.

Even though some lawmakers on Capitol Hill hold their political convictions to be more sacred than their spiritual convictions, not enough feel that way to undercut the state's religious institutions.

2. Economically, Utah is hurting. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has had to cut not only the fat, but the muscle from the city budget. An economic boycott of Utah by the rest of the nation would cripple businesses here. And business will not let that happen.

The hospitality industry, especially, would lose out. It would lose out-of-state business and lose minimum wage employees. The same for restaurants. A new law would put a fork in every steak house.

3. Arizona's governor is morally weak. But the two men running for governor of Utah are not. Gov. Gary Herbert can be accommodating at times and has been known to adjust his position on issues, but his tough stance on protecting Native American artifacts in Draper early in his term shows that he votes with a conscience. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is cut from similar cloth.

And neither of them is going to roll over for zealots.

4. Utahns don't need another civil rights battle.

Older citizens remember the painful debates with African-Americans in the early 1970s. And the recent dust-up over Proposition 8 in California was more divisive than many Utahns anticipated.

Utah is not a place where civil rights go to die. And the last thing the state needs is another social issue that pits father against son and brother against brother. Many legislators tend to be long on principle and short on practicality.

Fortunately, not all Utahns are legislators. They prefer what's possible to visions of nirvana.

5. The Arizona law will likely be declared unconstitutional, which will end the debate.

Already, the state has suffered an image debacle. And Utah has always prided itself on its image and its economy. A new immigration law cobbled together to mimic the one in Arizona would undermine both those points of pride.

e-mail: jerjohn@desnews.com