N.Y. Times praises Utah Compact

Published: Monday, Dec. 6 2010 10:00 p.m. MST

The following editorial appeared in the New York Times Dec. 4.

Not all the political news this year involves the rise of partisan extremism and government by rage. There has been lots of that. But maybe there is a limit, a point when people of good sense and good will band together to say no. As they have just done in Utah.

Political, business, law-enforcement and religious leaders there have endorsed what they call the Utah Compact. It is a statement of principles meant to address, with moderation and civility, "the complex challenges associated with a broken national immigration system." What a welcome contrast it draws with the xenophobic radicalism of places like Arizona.

The signers, who hope to influence the shape of state immigration policy, include the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, the state attorney general, two Republican former governors, a former United States senator, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, the Chamber of Commerce and a host of other civic groups and citizens. The prominent and powerful Mormon Church did not sign on but issued a "statement of support" calling the compact "a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform."

A clearer expression of good sense and sanity than Utah's would be hard to find. It says immigration is an issue between the federal government and other countries — "not Utah and other countries." It says local police agencies should focus on fighting crime, "not civil violations of federal code." Because "strong families are the foundation of successful communities," it opposes policies that unnecessarily separate them. It recognizes immigrants' value as workers and taxpayers.

It ends by urging a humane approach to the reality of immigration: "Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of good will."

South of Utah in Arizona, the political establishment, top law-enforcement officers and voters have lined up behind a radical go-it-alone strategy to uproot and terrorize unwanted immigrants. That hard-line fever is spreading, with lawmakers in other states scrambling to pass their versions of the infamous Arizona law that empowers the police to demand people's papers.

Immigration hard-liners are used to using the harshest words possible for newcomers, and condemning calls for restraint and humane behavior — as the Utah Minutemen already have — as the same old liberal, pro-amnesty mush. But red-state Utah is nobody's idea of an open-borders fantasyland. The architects of the compact are conservative Republicans who have simply decided not to toe the simplistic party line.

This page has always insisted that reform can be — must be — pro-immigrant, pro-business, pro-family, pro-law-enforcement, all at the same time. These values are complementary. Law enforcement is strengthened by bolstering immigrants' rights. Assimilation is more American than mass expulsion. It is also cheaper: a new study by the liberal Center for American Progress calculated that Arizona had lost hundreds of millions of dollars in convention and other business, thanks to the notoriety from its immigration crackdown.

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