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The Utah Compact: Five Principles To Promote Civil Immigration Policy Debate

"We are not in the same situation as Arizona; we are seen as a kinder and gentler state."

New America Media, News Report, Anjana Sundaram, Posted: Aug 08, 2011
Part 5 in the 5-part series, “Immigration’s New Battlefield.” Read Part 4 here

Editor’s Note: The battle over immigration is now being waged at the state level. Since Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070 went into effect one year ago, five states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -- have passed similar laws.

While some states have enacted enforcement-only measures, Utah has attempted to take a different approach. A group of community leaders in the state have signed onto the Utah Compact, a statement of five principles designed to promote a civil policy debate over immigration in Utah.

In March, Utah’s state legislature enacted a package of four immigration bills. The most imminent and disputed of these, HB 497, is modeled after Arizona’s immigration law, requiring police to ask for and examine the identification documents of anyone they stop, detain or arrest. A lawsuit has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Immigration Law Center to stop this law from taking effect. It was scheduled to go into effect on May 10, 2011 but has been staid by a federal judge. A hearing is scheduled in September to address a possible injunction.

The other three laws require the authorization of the federal government and would take effect in 2013. They establish a state guest worker program (HB 116), authorize a pilot program of work permits for residents of the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to gain employment in Utah (HB 466), and allow Utah citizens to sponsor individuals outside the U.S. to live and work in Utah (HB 469).

According to the 2010 Census, the Latino population in Utah increased 78 percent in the last decade.

NAM interviewed community leaders and ethnic media journalists to learn the impact of these laws on the five states at the frontlines of immigration’s new battlefield.

Candice Levie, Immigration Case Manager, Asian Association of Utah (Salt Lake City)
We’ve seen the immigration laws as mainly a Latino issue but it is causing a lot of anxiety that affects other communities as well. There are now visibly a lot of organizations coming together for lobbying, although the refugee community is pretty safe from these laws.

Part of our job is to alert the community that the laws haven’t been passed yet because of the hold. There is a lot of false information circulating, such as the state of the guest worker program. So our next step is to start educating and empowering the community and working to dispel circulating rumors about the immigration laws.

Brandy Farmer, Board Member, Latin American Chamber of Commerce;Legal Observer, ACLU Utah (Salt Lake City)
We know that these bills are targeting Hispanic and, more specifically, Mexican immigrants. The war here is about the Southern border and who is crossing over the border from different countries.

We are going to different community organizations to educate about the new laws and their impact. We have heard of people charging as much as $6,000 to be put on a guest worker waiting list. We are educating people to not pay, saying, “Do not pay anyone to get a work permit. That will only be an issue in 2013.” In fact, the federal government giving a waiver to one state is very unlikely, but we’ll see.

We have sensed that most of the law enforcement agencies are not happy about taking on that position [under HB 497] because it pits them against the neighborhood residents they are trying to patrol. They also say it is a huge drain on their resources.