If one issue divided Utahns more than any other in 2010, it was immigration. The state found itself in the national spotlight when two employees in the Utah Department of Workforce Services sent a list of 1,300 people they believed were living in the United States illegally to law enforcement and the media, demanding their deportation. This followed a proposal from Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, to pass an Arizona-style immigration enforcement bill, which some worried could result in racial profiling. On the flip side, the state got plaudits from the New York Times for the "good sense" behind a statement from Utah leaders called the "Utah Compact," which urged moderation and civility in dealing with "the complex challenges associated with a broken national immigration system." The Times called the compact a model for other states.
Perhaps no one is more representative of the changing face of Utah than Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, the first immigrant state senator in Utah. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Robles is one of the youngest members of the Senate and one of only four Latinos in either chamber. For many Hispanics, she became their voice when she proposed an immigration reform bill of her own earlier this year. While the bill was criticized by some Latino leaders, Robles said it would provide a way for illegal immigrants to obtain work permits and undergo criminal background checks. "The reality is the vast majority of immigrants want to be part of something. Right now, there is no mechanism for them to be part of anything." The proposed bill showed that Robles is more than just a face; she's a rising power in Utah politics and a leader for the state's fastest growing population.
After 12 years of work at the state Legislature, Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, is about to make Utah history.
In a close race this November, Lockhart's colleagues at the capitol chose her to replace Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, as the GOP's new Speaker of the House with a 30-28 vote. Lockhart will now be the first woman in Utah to hold that position of power.
The long-time Provo representative is excited to assume her new role and be an example to women in the state, but she is quick to point out that she wasn't chosen because of her gender.
"I'm going to try my best to be a positive role model for women and be an example of the kinds of things women can achieve, but having said that, I didn't run for office expecting that anyone would vote for me because I'm a woman," Lockhart said. "I'm a representative just like any other person is a representative."
Lockhart, a wife, mother and former nurse, was first elected to represent Provo in the state Legislature in 1998 at 30 years old with 86 percent of the vote. Her husband, Stan Lockhart, a lobbyist for Micron, was chairman of the state GOP from 2007-2009.
Lockhart said her focus in the new session is to build consensus on controversial issues facing lawmakers this year, including immigration and health care. But that doesn't mean that everything will be business as usual this upcoming session.
"Whenever you have a change at the speakership, you're going to have a different way of doing things," Lockhart said in November. "It shouldn't be surprising."
When Elizabeth Smart faced her kidnapper in court this November, she publicly shared details of her abduction that she had never before revealed — not even to her parents.
But as a national audience watched the 23-year-old handle Brian David Mitchell's trial with exquisite poise and grace, she became known for something more than her testimony of the almost daily rapes she endured for nine months from 2002 to 2003. As she walked in and out of the courtroom each day, unashamed, head held high, Smart became an example of courage and resiliency. For many, she became a hero.
"I am so thrilled to stand before the people of America today and give hope to other victims who have not spoken out about what has happened to them," she said in December after Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and raping her. It was gray outside and drizzling slightly as cameras crowded around Smart and her family to hear her response to the verdict, but even then, she was calm and clear in her message.
Her dignity in the face of recounting her ordeal and her willingness to confront her attacker in a public arena were marks of bravery inspiring to many. She brought attention to the reality of rape, and through her example, she has shown that it is possible to heal after a devastating experience and be happy and whole again.
"I hope that not only was this an example that justice can be served in America, but that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened," Smart said. "We can speak out and we will be heard."
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