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Minuteman Project takes aim at Utah immigration compact; Sandstrom will move ahead with bill

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 11:48 a.m. MDT

The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake  signs the Utah Compact during a press conference at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City last week. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News) The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake signs the Utah Compact during a press conference at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City last week. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A state lawmaker who is proposing a restrictive illegal immigration bill says there is more that he and backers of the Utah Compact see eye to eye on than divides them.

Even so, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, says he has "every intention" to move ahead with his legislation that would require police to ask about immigration status of anyone they stop if they have "reasonable suspicion" the person is in the country illegally.

"I think my bill is a measured approach and I don't see any reason why it couldn't fit within the context of what the compact is trying to get at," he said.

Meantime, the Utah Minuteman Project says it too largely agrees with the document's principles, but then goes on to blast those who signed it, referring to them as "amnesty mongers."

A man removes signs from a vehicle before protesting immigration laws outside of the Salt Lake City County building in 2009. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News) A man removes signs from a vehicle before protesting immigration laws outside of the Salt Lake City County building in 2009. (Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

"Unfortunately, were those who comprise the Utah Compact honest about their intent (pro-illegal alien, pro-amnesty, and anti-law enforcement relative to the illegal invasion), every mention of the term 'immigrant' in their statement would read 'illegal alien,' " Minuteman Chairman Eli Cawley wrote in a news release Monday.

"The issue is cheap illegal alien labor and church membership, and everyone knows it."

Last Thursday, several business, political and community leaders unveiled what they see as a more humane and compassionate approach to immigration reform. The Utah Compact outlines five guiding principles, including urging a federal solution and keeping families together. Signers include Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Bishop John Wester of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, former Gov. Olene Walker and former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn. Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank added his name to the list Monday.

Eli Cawley (right) (Mike Terry, Deseret News) Eli Cawley (right) (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a subsequent statement of support of support that, in part, calls for public officials to "create and administer laws that reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society."

Last week, Sandstrom called the compact a direct jab at his bill.

In a news release Monday, he took a more conciliatory tone, saying he is "encouraged" by the efforts of influential community members to join the illegal immigration debate and that he supports the LDS Church statement. But he would not go so far as to sign the compact "because I think there are some ulterior motives by some of the people involved to derail my bill."

At a news conference last Friday, local Hispanic leaders welcomed the document, but some said while the church support "makes it more powerful," LDS leaders should have signed it.

Chris Burbank (Michael Brandy, Deseret News) Chris Burbank (Michael Brandy, Deseret News)

"You have to see it as a mountain," said Archie Archuleta, chairman of the Utah Coalition of LaRaza, adding the LDS Church is taking steps to reach the top. "The moral high ground is still being climbed by some groups."

Cawley calls the document a "pre-emptive strike" to Sandstrom's proposal.

"Those individuals and groups whose political agenda is informed by the greed for using cheap illegal labor and putting illegal derrieres in church pews are rightfully alarmed that the voice of the citizens of Utah relative to the illegal alien invasion will finally be realized by their elected representatives," he said.

Burbank, who has resisted laws that direct local police to enforce immigration laws, said the declaration is a way for the silent majority to weigh in on the immigration debate.

Stephen  Sandstrom (Brian Nicholson, El Observador de Utah) Stephen Sandstrom (Brian Nicholson, El Observador de Utah)

"The Utah Compact now provides an avenue for individuals to add their voice to the call for rational, reasonable discussion, hopefully in a manner lawmakers will recognize," he said.

But several state lawmakers have said they doubt it will figure heavily into the debate on the dozen or so immigration bills the Utah Legislature will consider in January.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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