Published on Sat, Apr 09, 2011
SALT LAKE CITY – Liberal immigration activists are looking to Utah as a compassionate and logical model for shaping the nation's future policies toward illegal immigrants.
Utah leaders — including government, education, business and religious groups — came together last fall to draft a set of principles to guide the immigration debate in the state. Those guidelines, known as the Utah Compact, state in part that illegal immigrants are essential to the economy and deserving of respect.
The recommendations are credited with helping pass immigration changes last month in the Utah Legislature that included enforcement revisions and a guest worker program.
"The leadership in Utah, through the Compact, changed the debate around the country," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Immigration Forum. "It's clear the Compact has struck a chord with the silent majority that wants reform."
Noorani is working with Utah officials to create a national version of the plan, which could be announced as early as this summer.
Opponents say the approach will lead to amnesty programs that only benefit big business and caution it will lead to more illegal immigration...
Wendy Sefsaf, of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Council, also points out another reason for skepticism. Even if the principles are laudable, she said, the results in Utah "did not live up to it" because it will create second-class workers who are not citizens.
Still, Utah does provide a starting point.
"We all have aspirational goals, and the compact has great aspirations," Sefsaf said. "But most states are just reacting. Utah at least tried something that wasn't just about deporting people."
Published in the Associated Press