The Utah Compact on Immigration

If you care about immigration, an interesting thing happened a couple days ago. Some of Utah‘s leaders–religious, political, and secular–joined together to propose an a set of principles on to guid the immigration reform discussion. It is seen as an alternative to recent proposals such as those passed in Arizona and proposed for Utah by Utah state Rep. Steven Sandstrom.

Labeled a “Declaration of Five Principles to Guide Utah’s Immigration Discussion,” the document lays out simple and clear parameters for keeping the policy discussion on immigration both moral and constitutional policy. In full, it states:

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

FAMILIES Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Unsurprisingly, Representative Stephen Sandstrom was not sanguine when he heard about it, especially since one of the supporters, though not a signer, was the LDS Church, local to Salt Lake City, and a political behemoth in Utah politics in the few rare circumstances where it decides to weigh in (more than 80 percent of Utah lawmakers are LDS, and more than 60 percent of the state’s population is LDS). Sandstrom did not sound like he was going to back down, however unhappy he was about the LDS Church’s position.

“I kind of wish I’d been given more of a heads-up because it is taking aim at the bill I’m doing,” Sandstrom lamented Thursday. “My other thought was that I thought the church’s no-position was the best way to go and to let this be the purview of government.”

Among the other signers were former Govs. Olene Walker and Norm Bangerter, Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie and Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, as well as current attorney general Mark Shurtleff. I compact is available for signing online, and it expands upon the list of notables who support the Compact, including former US Senator Jake Garn, former US Representative Jim Hansen, Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch, and Mayor Peter Corroon.

What does this mean for immigration proposals in the 2011 legislative session? Because of the broad support behind the Compact, as well as the weight of the LDS Church, immigration is about to get more interesting. This takes the issue out of a squarely partisan playing field and puts individuals into a position where they must consider why they support immigration reform. The nut at the heart of the Compact is three-fold–1) immigration policy should be moral; 2) immigration is the federal government’s purview, not the states’; and 3) immigration policy should be made on principles that have made America great–the free market and a free society.

One of the interesting effects of the Compact is that it defuses a lot of the anger mongering that the right has seen used to stir-up the base. Because of the moral, and religious, authority of the LDS Church, Utah Mormon conservatives will find themselves in the position of rethinking how they view immigration policy and the basis for those positions.

Last, I think it important to note that this does not mean that immigration should not be reformed. It’s clear as the statutory language in the Kurzban Immigration Law Sourcebook sitting on my desk is unclear that immigration needs reform. My hope is that the reform that comes, when it finally comes, does more good than harm.

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4 responses to “The Utah Compact on Immigration

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