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Utah Compact gains foothold in Arizona

Published May 27, 2011 9:25 am

Immigration • It could be taken up in district represented by sponsor of controversial law.
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The Utah Compact is serving as a template for some states grappling with immigration reform, but few places can boast the symbolic impact of what happened this week in Mesa, Ariz.

The seven-member Mesa Human Relations Advisory Board unanimously voted Wednesday to forward a version of it to the City Council. It is a notable moment, given Mesa is in the backyard of anti-immigration firebrand and Arizona state Senate President Russell Pearce.

Coupled with a recall effort to remove Pearce from office, Mesa has become a key battle site on the immigration front.



Officials with the recall are expecting on Tuesday to deliver the required signatures to the Arizona secretary of state.

But Pearce, a Republican who represents the 18th district in Mesa, is defiant through it all and treats each of these developments with disdain.

"It's the same myths and the same lies from the liberal media and open borders crowd," Pearce said. "My constituency knows me, my district knows me — that's why I have a 16-0 record with wins in my district."

The immigration fight put Arizona at the epicenter of the debate when Pearce's SB1070 was passed and then signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer a little more than a year ago.

That law, which has since had several provisions tossed out by federal courts, is an enforcement-only piece of legislation that sparked outcries of racial profiling and being heavily burdensome on local police because it would have required them to act as immigration officers.

Pearce said SB1070 has been "hugely successful" and says more than 70 percent of Arizona residents support it.

But the state did suffer from convention boycotts, and Brewer sank $250,000 into a marketing campaign to try to lure tourist and business dollars back to Arizona.

Chad Snow, a lawyer who is co-chairman of the committee to recall Pearce, said the tide has turned against Pearce and said the Utah Compact has had a big effect on moving Arizona onto a different path.

"I think the fact that the compact comes from Utah — a red state and with the religious aspects — makes it more acceptable here in Mesa," Snow said. "It wasn't the Virginia Compact or the Massachusetts Compact and yet it's a total repudiation of everything he [Pearce] stands for."

The Utah Compact was signed in November and served as guiding principles for a comprehensive group of bills passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March. The Compact was signed by politicians, business leaders and faith-based groups. It was also endorsed by the LDS Church — which claims membership of a majority of Utahns and an estimated 60,000 residents of Mesa.

It has since been brought up in states such as Nebraska and Texas, and it is being used as the basis for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's attempt to draft "America's Compact." Shurtleff said he had hoped to have it unveiled in June, but because of health problems, he said it's about a month behind schedule.

The steady proliferation of compacts troubles Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, who successfully sponsored an enforcement-only immigration bill in the recent Utah legislative session. He saw the Utah Compact as an attack on his legislation.

He said in the past months, the document has been used to mislead people.

"I think it's unfortunate that what the Utah Compact has become is a blueprint for amnesty," Sandstrom said. "I think what you're seeing is a group of pro-amnesty people disguising it as compassion and keeping families together while ignoring the problems like identity theft."

Now that the compact has passed Mesa's Human Relations Advisory Board, it's next step could be the Mesa City Council. But that wouldn't likely happen until August.

Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said it would be "unusual" for an item passed unanimously by an advisory board to not at least make it to the City Council's agenda.

dmontero@sltrib.com Twitter: @davemontero —

The Utah Compact

The Utah Compact is a set of principles that recognizes immigration as the responsibility of the federal government. It also calls for humane treatment of all people, encourages an immigration policy that keeps families together and recognizes the economic contributions of all workers — undocumented or not.

 

 

 

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