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Utah Compact recognized; poll shows Utahns like it, too

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 16 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

A group of Latino members of the military and veterans are honored in the Utah House of Representatives during Latino Day at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the honorees at Latino Day at the Capitol was not a person, but a document.

The Utah Coaltion of La Raza awarded the Utah Compact a Cesar Chavez Peace & Justice Award on Wednesday. The third annual Latino Day recognized war veterans, soldiers, business owners, teachers and others for their contributions to the nation and state.

Civic, religious, community and religious leaders unveiled the compact last fall hoping to bring more humanity and compassion to the illegal immigration debate. It urges five guiding principles, including seeking a federal solution, valuing immigrants and keeping families together.

"They have brought a sense of sanity to the discussion," said Utah La Raza chairman Archie Archuleta.

In legislative hearings so far, several have invoked the compact both for and against proposed illegal immigration legislation.

Salt Lake Chamber vice president Robin Riggs said GOP Rep. Bill Wright's guest worker proposal appears to be guided by the compact's principles. Meantime, Jim Wall of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau said Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's Arizona-style, enforcement-only bill does not keep with those principles. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake, had Wall read the entire compact into the record at that hearing.

A Deseret News/KSL poll taken earlier this month shows 55 percent of Utahns favor the Utah Compact, while 32 percent do not. Another 13 percent did not voice an opinion.

Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 496 residents Feb. 8-11. The poll has a plus or minus 4 percent error margin.

Demographic data on the poll showed support for the compact crossed political and religious boundaries. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans surveyed supported the document while 68 percent of Democrats backed it. When asked about religious affiliation, all but those who said they were Catholic backed the compact by large majorities. Just 46 percent of the Catholics surveyed favored the compact (20 percent didn't know), while the document had 57 percent support from the Mormons polled by Jones.

It's difficult to measure how much of an impact the document is having. Public debates at the Capitol have been civil so far, though off the hill one lawmaker this week had his house and car vandalized and received threatening e-mails.

"I think the Utah Compact and their policies have been included in most of the debates," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.

Several illegal immigration bills have moved through committee and await argument on the floor. The House favors letting each measure stand on its own, while the Senate is working toward a comprehensive package.

The Jones poll found Utahns prefer the House approach, with 52 percent saying a vote should be taken on each individual bill. The notion of merging proposal into a single package appealed to 32 percent, while 17 percent didn't know.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who has already influenced changes Sandstrom, R-Orem, made to his enforcement-only bill, doesn't have a preference for either approach.

"I don't care, if the outcome is appropriate, whether its one comprehensive bill or two or three complementary bills," he said.

Regardless, Utahns want the state to do something, Herbert said.

"I think the something is a little confusing. I think it's not exactly clear on what should happen," the governor said. "But I think Utah will get it right."

Herbert said he hasn't come down on the side of any of the current proposals. But said a bill that combines enforcement with a guest worker program or "carrot-and-stick" approach, has merit.

Jenkins, in his folksy style, may have summed it up best.

"This is a little like making stew. We're not sure what they're throwing in. We're not sure how long it's going to cook and we're not sure what's coming out."

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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