Community leaders urge moderate approach to immigration reform

Published: Monday, Nov. 15 2010 10:30 a.m. MST

"The key is to distinguish between federal responsibilities and state responsibilities," he said. "They're responsible for securing the border. We here in Utah are responsible for enforcing state laws."

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, who has been open about his support of tough immigration policy, argued, however, that states enforce federal laws on a regular basis. Bank robbery, kidnapping and extortion are all federal laws, he said.

"A law is a law," he said. "I don't think law enforcement should pick and choose which laws they enforce."

Furthermore, he said, most illegal immigrants are not merely in violation of civil code. Seventy-five percent have a stolen or falsified identity, he said. Identity theft is a felony.

"I don't want to be unfair or unjust to anybody," he said. "I don't support being violent or disrespectful. But if you broke the law, there are ramifications."

The compact also stresses the importance of keeping families together and urges legislators to consider the economy when making decisions about immigration policy.

Deborah Bayle, president of the United Way of Salt Lake, signed the compact on behalf of her organization because, she said, "our mission is to help people." It's important to remember, she said, that immigration policy affects all immigrants — not just those who are undocumented — because of the way people are intertwined.

"We do think families belong together," she said. "Of course, we do not condone illegal behavior, but we think we need to make sure we address this issue without rancor or hatred."

Carpenter said the Salt Lake Chamber has some "serious economic concerns" about policy decisions that put immigrants in a precarious position.

"If we have a mass self deportation, if immigrants decide 'Utah's not the place I want to be,' our economy will suffer," he said. Immigrants pay taxes and shop at Utah stores. While Utah's economy is on the rebound, he said, "it's not a decision-proof rebound. This really isn't the time to mess with the number of consumers."

Sandstrom said he agreed that families belong together. But, he argued, his law doesn't tear families apart. If a parent is deported, they are free to take their U.S. citizen children with them.

"Most people who commit crimes have a family," he said. "Prosecuting that crime will break up that family. There is no way around that. We need to be careful how we address the issue, but, at the same time, there has to be a consequence for actions."

When it comes to the economy, Sandstrom criticized the Salt Lake Chamber for worrying about "profit over principle."

While illegal immigrants do pay into the system, he said, they cost much more in welfare, education and free medical care.

"I have a hard time saying we need to turn a blind eye to someone breaking the law because it's good for our economy," he said.

The Utah Compact calls for a "humane approach" to immigration that supports the ideal of a free society. Utah has a history of inclusion, drafter's wrote, and immigration policy should reflect that.

Sutherland's Mero said the compact represents Utahns' desires to remain a "welcoming place for all people of good will" and not to become a police state.

"There is a diverse group of community leaders in Utah who see undocumented immigrants living among us as human beings and not as law breakers," said Mero, who signed the compact. "We're not about to round them up or starve them out. We are going to help them out so they can continue to live, work and raise their families without worrying about who's looking over their shoulder."

Sandstrom said he doesn't see his bill as inhumane. It simply upholds the law.

"It's flat out wrong to ignore the problems illegal immigration is causing in our society," he said.

e-mail: estuart@desnews.com


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