Lawmakers should step away from a strict law-and-order approach and embrace a comprehensive immigration reform plan, one of Utah's leading conservative think tanks said Monday.

The Sutherland Institute, in its first written statement on the issue this year, recommended assimilating otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants in Utah.

"We have noticed that there is an implicit assumption that all 'conservative' remedies to the issue of illegal immigration are framed by a strict law-and-order approach," Paul T. Mero, the institute's president, said Monday. "As much as we have heard about the importance of rule of law, and it is vital, there are several other conservative principles of good government that must be given priority."

The institute offered up a number of policy recommendations, including:

• Requesting a federal waiver permitting Utah to explicitly address illegal immigration in a manner that preserves families, buildings communities and creates productive citizens.

• Creating an in-state work permit.

• Focusing public education on the most needy students.

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• Establishing a broad network of authentic charity care clinics.

• Coordinating private outreach to strengthen faith and family relationships.

• Coordinating public and private efforts to teach the full scope of citizenship.

• Lobbying the state's congressional delegation to support more humane legal immigration policies.

"It is time for authentic conservatives to step forward and accept responsibility to address this issue in principled terms, as opportunity not on us," onus," Mero said.

The complete report can be seen at