WASHINGTON Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson used an award acceptance speech here Wednesday night to call for an end to the "hypocrisy" in the country's immigration laws, using the Dec. 11, 2001, immigration raid at Salt Lake City International Airport as an example.
Anderson pointed out his disagreement with some policies, lack of proper enforcement and lack of consistency in national immigration laws. He told his audience the country can do better.
"While we tout the value of a good education, there are those like many Utah state legislators who make it impossible for children of thousands of guest workers to obtain a higher education," said Anderson, speaking on the final day of the 2006 Utah Legislature.
Anderson received the Profile in Courage Award from the League of United Latin American Citizens for standing up for Salt Lake City International Airport workers arrested three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an effort called "Operation Safe Travel."
The U.S. Attorney's Office issued arrest warrants for 69 people who worked at the airport, the majority of whom had access to highly secured areas. That caused outrage in the Hispanic community and caused some workers to be deported.
Anderson said at the time he wished the roundup had been handled differently and in a more humanitarian way, and many criticized him for that position.
"Our laws and our practices are completely inconsistent," he said after the speech.
He said everyone knows illegal workers get a "wink and a nod" and are allowed to work without proper documentation, but then the government selectively determines which workers it is going to go after. He said the Dec. 11, 2001, date "was no coincidence."
"Lives are being thrown into chaos, families are being torn apart and inhumane treatment is being perpetrated in our names by the United States government every single day," Anderson said.
"In the name of justice, for the sake of humane treatment of our brothers and sisters, for the pursuit of basic decency as human beings, we can and we must achieve far greater humanity in our treatment of guest workers and their families."
After the airport incident, Anderson started the Family-to-Family program in which volunteer families could be paired with those of the prosecuted airport workers.
"I set up the Family-to-Family program not only to help the families being impacted but to raise the consciousness of our community so they could put a face on, and they could get to know personally, the hell these people were going through," Anderson said.
The awards ceremony included a 2002 episode of ABC News' "In Search of America" series in which the late anchorman Peter Jennings interviewed Anderson about the situation.
Alex Segura, director of the anti-illegal immigration group Utah Minuteman Project, said it was unfortunate Anderson didn't turn down the award.
"He seems to always forget the fact that there are criminal elements involved," Segura said in Utah on Wednesday. "We have Hispanic gangs committing horrible, horrible crimes.
"He's not speaking for the entire population of Salt Lake; he's speaking for Rocky."
Rebecca Chavez-Houck, spokeswoman for Centro de la Familia, wasn't aware of the award but said Anderson "has always been supportive of the Latino community."
Mickey Ibarra, a former White House director of intergovernmental affairs who was a Utah schoolteacher and National Education Association official, nominated Anderson for the award.
The organization also honored Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., for their work on immigration issues.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began work on a major immigration bill Thursday. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke only briefly but entered remarks into the meeting's record.
Contributing: Deborah Bulkeley
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