Georgia coalition working on Utah-style compact

Published: Thursday, Dec. 9 2010 11:55 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A new coalition on immigration, closely modeled after the Utah Compact, is emerging in another state.

A group of business, community and religious leaders is forming in Georgia to promote a policy document designed to guide the state's immigration debate toward a "compassionate, reasonable" approach.

"The Utah Compact, I think, sets a standard that any people of reasonable mind can agree to," said Charles Kuck, the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "It's certainly something that should be implemented across the country."

The group is calling itself the Georgia Pact and recently launched a website.

"It shows the community in which the groups live that immigration is vital and important and we welcome these people," Kuck said. "Immigration is what's going to help pull us out of this recession. Chasing immigrants away is not going to be helpful to anyone's economy."

It's the latest sign the Utah Compact is having an impact outside of Utah.

Last month, community leaders gathered at the state Capitol to sign the Utah Compact, which supports guiding principles on immigration. The compact defines immigration as a federal issue. Local law enforcement should focus on crime and not unnecessarily separate families, it says.

Last week a New York Times editorial lauded the compact, calling it a clear "expression of good sense and sanity," saying that "assimilation is more American than mass expulsion. It is also cheaper."

"People around the country seem to be looking at that," said Jason Mathis, a vice president with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. "The New York Times is a good example of that. We've heard of three or four other states that have looked at what we've done and are now trying to adopt something similar."

Rep. Steve Sandstrom, R-Orem, the lawmaker who is preparing to bring a tough, Arizona-style proposal to the upcoming Utah legislative session, says it's "full-steam ahead" for his bill.

Of the Georgia effort, he said "it's a little deceptive that they're using the Utah Compact to promote amnesty for illegal aliens."

The man leading Georgia's effort doesn't see it that way.

"We already have a coalition of anti-immigration restrictionist legislators meeting to format Arizona legislation here in Georgia," Kuck said. "So we need to move this forward now as a counter-balance to that type of negative legislation."

In Utah, the showdown will play out during the next legislative session, which starts next month.

e-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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