For Chris Herrod and Chris Burbank, the immigration debate is about fairness.

But their interpretations of what is fair differed as the two men headlined a debate over SB81 and the future of immigration in Utah and the United States at the University of Utah's S.J. Quinney College of Law Thursday afternoon.

Burbank, chief of the Salt Lake Police Department, said he wants fairness for city residents of all races — something he said could not happen if his officers were cross-deputized as immigration agents under SB81.

"Do we have a problem? No question about it," Burbank said, noting undocumented immigrants perpetrated a large part of drug crimes in the Pioneer Park area. But SB81 promotes racial profiling, he said. "There's no other way."

Herrod, a state representative from Provo, sees it differently.

Having navigated the lengthy process to bring his wife from the Ukraine to the United States, Herrod says fairness in immigration is a respect for the rule of law.

And while he doesn't fault Burbank's department for opting to not cross-deputize, Herrod said the chief has used his position and misinformation about the amount of crime perpetrated by undocumented immigrants to influence the public.

But as the two men squared off, Mark Alvarez, one of two immigration attorneys who participated in the event, said SB81 itself has "impeded on this debate."

"We have people pointing fingers of blame and other people using the finger," he said, adding local media are "concentrating much more on the radical voices than the rational conversation."

SB81, which went into effect in July, merely codified federal law into state law, said Alvarez, the administrator of minority affairs under Mayor Rocky Anderson.

The option to cross-deputize officers has existed since 1997, he said.

Alvarez and attorney Roger Tsai, of Parsons, Behle and Latimer, said SB81 is not on the list of solutions to the country's immigration problems.

In some cases, the waiting period for citizenship can top 20 years, Alvarez said.

Whether it's an engineer from Africa or a bride from Canada, "the process should be easier, but it's not," Tsai said.

Tsai said he worried proposed solutions like eVerify may promote "further illegality."

"These individuals who really want to work will probably begin stealing real identities," he said. "They'll have a driver's license with their face but someone else's name, Social Security and birth date in order to work."

Alvarez said improved relationships with Mexico and an effort to improve the Mexican economy would also help mitigate immigration problems.

But, ultimately, the biggest question remains: What to do with the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States?

Alvarez said he would support some type of amnesty, a notion Herrod dismissed.

The amnesty President Ronald Reagan granted in the 1980s taught people "all they need to do is hide long enough and there will be another amnesty," Herrod said, noting his definition of amnesty would be "if someone is willing to go home, they can get in line like everyone else. They're not going to be penalized."

Whatever action the federal government takes, Alvarez said, not everyone will be happy.

"Immigration reform is not going to be fair," he said.

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