On March 15, 2011, Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, signed into law the following immigration legislation: Utah HB 116, which is a form of guest worker legislation at the state level; HB 497, which requires Utah police to check the immigration status of persons arrested for felonies or serious misdemeanors; and HB 466, which provides a pilot program between Utah and the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon for guest workers.
Known collectively as the Utah Solution or Utah Amnesty, these laws are based in turn on the Utah Compact, an agreement formalized on November 11, 2010, by businesses, faith groups, and law enforcement officials in the state.
The chief architect of the Utah Compact is the Catholic Bishop of Utah, John Wester, who has received national praise and support from open-border advocates, the liberal press, and many Democrats. The Compact, as a response to the lack of federal resolution of the immigration chaos that has existed in the state for decades, offers five principles:
- Immigration is a federal prerogative
- Local law enforcement should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal law
- Utah should oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families
- Utah should acknowledge the economic role that immigrants play as workers and taxpayers
- Utah should adopt a humane approach to immigration problems.
The Utah Compact
Well-intended as it may be, the Compact is based on fallacious arguments that have been voiced for decades by illegal-alien advocates. Among these are that law enforcement needs the cooperation of illegal aliens to solve crimes; that family unity supersedes immigration law and national security; that illegal aliens pay federal and state income taxes; and that national borders mean nothing compared to human needs.
The Utah Compact stops short of providing an innovative and constructive blueprint for immigration reform. It is an exercise in feeling good and Christian charity that stops short of dealing with the realities of human nature and economics. Missing are the details on how to implement it, and the devil is in the details.
The Utah Legislation
If the same criteria that the Obama Justice Department applied to the recent Arizona immigration legislation are applied to the Utah legislation, then it too will be challenged as unconstitutional. If the Utah immigration legislation is not named in a federal lawsuit, as Arizona was, then the Obama administration will be seen as playing politics with the courts.
Proponents of the Utah immigration legislation, realizing that the Utah laws fly in the face of the U.S. Constitution, are seeking waivers from the Obama administration. The effective date for the law package is July 2013, so as to give the Obama administration time to make a decision about a waiver yet not interfere with the Obama re-election campaign.
Most significantly, the law provides for family unity — spouses and children are included. Bishop Wester and his supporters stress putting a “human face” on immigration and seeking a compassionate and humane understanding of immigration reform. In contrast, the majority of U.S. citizens view efforts such as the Utah laws as pure and simple amnesty.
State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, R-Utah, has been an active supporter of the Utah Compact and immigration legislation. He has been campaigning nationally to influence the Obama administration to grant the necessary federal waivers, contrary to the Obama position against Arizona’s legislative efforts to deal with overwhelming numbers of illegal aliens.
An avid supporter of comprehensive immigration reform based on an “America’s Compact,” Shurtleff believes that business leaders, faith groups, and law enforcement personnel nationwide will endorse such an endeavor, just as Utah has.
Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is well-versed on immigration law and has asked the Obama administration to sue Utah over its state immigration laws. Realizing that the Obama administration is often influenced by political ideology and tends to act with perfidy in such matters, Chairman Smith also knows that a patchwork of state immigration laws cannot exist, if the Constitution is to stand.
The Utah immigration laws are a noble attempt to fill the federal void in immigration enforcement and border security. Even if found to be constitutional, however, they suffer from a lack of substance in addressing the cause of the problem — open borders. Polls show that up to 75 percent of U.S. citizens oppose amnesty for illegal aliens and believe that securing the borders must be the priority of the federal government.
Immigration reform without real border security by the feds is an exercise in futility, and recent congressional hearings attest to the present lack of border control. Decades of past congressional legislation based upon special interest-motivated amendments to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) have resulted in chaos and immigration anarchy.
Congress can learn from the Utah laws that immigration legislation need not be presented as one incomprehensible 2,000-page befuddlement. The time has come for the U.S. Congress to enact clearly defined bills dealing separately with border security and enforcement and immigration entitlements.
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