Recently, a copy of a new immigration bill by Rep. Steven Sandstrom, R-Orem, was leaked to the media. It outlined a number of shocking proposals, including the use of ankle bracelets for immigrants and the ability of law enforcement to deny them bond. But there was a problem. It wasn't Sandstrom's bill.
Sandstrom plans to introduce legislation to address the issue of illegal immigration in Utah. He recently returned from a trip to Arizona, where he studied the issue at length. He has indicated that he is trying to craft his proposal in such a way as to avoid legal issues similar to those levied against Arizona by the Justice Department.
The purported copy of his bill that was released to the press looked legitimate. It contained a number of proposals that were guaranteed to rile up people on each side of the issue. But Rep. Sandstrom stated that the "elaborate hoax" was nothing but a fabrication.
The use of deliberate dishonesty is never a good policy. Oftentimes, dishonesty and distortion can be used to muddy the waters of a debate in order to dull the senses of otherwise reasonable people. It's easier to persuade with emotion than reason. But from a moral standpoint, dishonesty has never been appropriate. From a political standpoint, it doesn't make sense, either. Eventually there are consequences. Re-election is always more difficult when people are hurt by lies and know that lies have been told.
And yet some would argue that there are issues of such great moment that the end justifies any means. For example, the director of the Utah Minutemen has implied that privacy laws should take a backseat to the prosecution of illegal immigration. Such a standpoint is alarming. Adolf Hitler was not fond of Jews and slaughtered millions of them in pursuit of his goal of racial purity. Granted, stealing personal information is not the same as taking a life. But it is a step in that direction. The greatness of our country is lessened to the degree that we seek to enforce ideology through deceit.
No issue that cannot stand on its own merits deserves credibility. There are a number of political issues about which I feel passionate. However, I would rather see the policy of an opposing majority become the rule rather than to see my own platform elevated through the use of dishonesty. The immigration debate can stir passions on its own without resorting to unethical means.
Until recently, it seemed that the greatest need in the current debate was for civility. But it seems now that honesty has superseded civility in the hierarchy of outstanding needs. There are valid points that can be made on each side of the immigration debate. When all is said and done, few of the issues involved are black and white. The decisions are difficult, and the consequences will be far-reaching regardless of the outcome. But whatever the result, no policy deserves to stand as the voice of the people if it has been achieved through dishonest means.
The release of the forgery of Sandstrom's bill has fueled an already raging fire. The immigration debate is hot enough without the use of deliberate dishonesty. While there are some who may argue that the end justifies the means, such is not the case. Whatever the final result of the immigration debate, let it come about through civil dialogue — and not purposeful deceit.
Kurt Manwaring is pursuing a graduate degree in public administration at the University in Utah with a research emphasis on crime and immigration in state history.