Salt Lake to host four-state immigration summit Oct. 26

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 6:35 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Business, political, law enforcement and faith leaders from four western states will meet in Utah on Oct. 26 for a summit on the value of immigrants and immigration to the nation.

Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and Mayor Paul Bridges of Uvalda, Ga., who will discuss the negative impact of immigration legislation on Georgia's economy, are the keynote speakers.

The summit "Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America," will also include presenters from Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, The Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake, and representatives of the Salt Lake Chamber are among the Utah presenters. The summit will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the City Center Marriott.

The day before the summit, attorneys with the Department of Justice plan to visit Utah to further review the state's illegal immigration enforcement law, which is the subject of a legal challenge by civil rights organizations.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, another summit sponsor, said Utah has emerged as a national leader on the issue of immigration. While the upcoming summit is regional in nature, the entire nation needs to forge a new consensus on immigrants and the nation, he said.

"If we're going to meet this challenge in way that moves our country forward, we're going to have to have a rational discussion," Noorani said during a telephone interview Friday.

The summit will focus on the economy, security and faith.

Specifically, the economic discussion will address the role that immigrants and immigration play in the current regional economy, and their importance to the future of the region’s economy across a number of sectors.

The segment on security will address the relationship between immigrants and law enforcement with respect to the region's sense of security.

The discussion on faith is expected to cover how religious communities have been affected by the influx of immigrants to the region.

Concerning the visit by federal prosecutors, Shurtleff said Friday he has met with DOJ attorneys twice in recent months to discuss various aspects of HB497. The legislation, signed into law earlier this year, requires police to verify the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors and those booked into jail on class b and class c misdemeanors. The law also says officers may attempt to verify the status of someone detained for class b and class c misdemeanors.

"They recognize the Utah law really tries to do something different" than laws passed by state legislatures in Arizona and Alabama, which are being challenged by the DOJ, Shurtleff said.

"They're getting a lot of pressure to join, nonetheless," he said, referring to the lawsuit against the Utah law filed by civil rights organizations earlier this year.

In a related development, a federal court hearing on HB497 has been scheduled for Dec. 2, during which state attorneys will ask U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups to allow Utah's immigration enforcement law to take effect.

"Hopefully that's the day we'll have it heard. We'd like a decision before the legislative session that's coming up," Shurtleff said

The state has argued in documents filed in U.S. District Court that "Utah's effort to enable local law enforcement to communicate and cooperate with federal officials and respond to that problem in a reasonable, unobtrusive manner.

"This court should defer to the wishes of the state and its legislators and allow the state to govern and address this issue as it sees fit."

The ACLU of Utah and the National Immigration Law Center, however, have argued that the law is unconstitutional and will turn Utah into a "show-me-your-papers" state.

For more information on "Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America," email moutainwestrsvp@immigrationforum.org or call Maria Castro at (202) 383-5994

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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