One of the five principles of the Utah Compact focuses on families — most importantly, keeping them together. Regardless of how a person's presence in this country became illegal, it is in fact a civil infraction punishable by up to a $250 fine. Driving through Arizona last month I received a speeding ticket. I was not aware that I had switched from a 65 mph zone to a 50 mph zone. I was traveling 70 mph and received a hefty ticket with a similar price tag. The fear of being separated from my family, however, never crossed my mind. I know a number of illegal immigrants personally. Many Republicans would have you believe these individuals crossed our country's borders in darkness, illegally, with the intent to have "anchor babies" in order to reap the benefits of U.S. citizenship. This is absolutely not the case for any of my acquaintances. Those who assign such broad-based labels are guilty of bigotry.
Having compassion for others is a critical element to loving others. I have no comprehension of what it is like to be an illegal immigrant. I was born and raised with all the privileges and opportunities of a U.S. citizen. I will never understand that reality, but I have the capacity to step back, put myself in other's shoes and attempt to see things from their perspective.
Treating other human beings with dignity and respect is far more important to me than which political party they are affiliated with, what country they originate from, what religion they belong to or the color of their skin.
As people of faith I believe our response to the issue of immigration should reflect our religious beliefs. We should do our best to make things better, not worse, for individuals and families whose presence here is a civil infraction.
I have been taught it is never appropriate to check my religion at the door, therefore, I do my best to bring it with me into the political world. This, interestingly enough, is frowned upon by many in the Republican Party. In the last Utah County Republican Party (UCRP) Central Committee meeting, there were a number of people who spoke in favor of adopting the Utah Compact as the immigration plank to the UCRP platform. If a person's beliefs or religion were referenced in their argument, that individual was booed and heckled. Such behavior is not only unacceptable but undignified and, unfortunately, an accurate reflection on the deterioration of the Republican Party.
May we all pause, examine our conscience and decide if the direction our political leaders are going is one we are comfortable with. The principles of the Utah Compact — to treat people with compassion, humility and empathy — should not be controversial, they should be standard practice. Yet this is not the case for the current Republican Party.
The Republican Party is not putting a viable alternative on the table that has a realistic chance of being passed and implemented. The United States has been ambiguous and inconsistent in its laws and the enforcement of its laws. We created the problem. Yes, there would still be illegal immigrants here, but not 12 million of them. Now we have a crisis of our own making and we think we are brave and we puff out our chests as we tell each other that this is a nation of laws and everyone needs to obey the law. We created the problem with bad laws and poor enforcement. So what do we do now? We show the empathic character of the United States. We admit our mistakes. We treat people with respect and we implement reform. We give people the benefit of the doubt. And we hold fast to our values in the process.
Tai W. Riser has been a financial adviser for 17 years and is a resident of Orem.