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Try compassion

Published February 11, 2013 5:25 pm

Immigration issue is about people
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What if simple compassion were the guiding principle of the discussion on immigration, both in Utah and in Washington?

What if "protecting our borders" was amended to read "protecting families," especially immigrants who are in this country without documents but who have never known any other homeland?

What if concern over "enforcing the law" were tempered with concern for people who have lived for many years in the United States, paid taxes, worked in unpopular jobs, caused no trouble and expected few of the "entitlements" that citizens enjoy?

That more human-centered philosophy is reflected in the Utah Compact, a document which is rightly getting attention from the Obama administration as it embarks on a campaign for fair and lawful resolution of the conflict over illegal immigration.

A bipartisan group of civic and religious leaders drafted the Compact in 2010. They were concerned about the direction the immigration debate was going here in Utah and what was motivating it. The debate reached a peak as the Great Recession hit with full force, and the malicious tone of some legislators seemed aimed at placing blame for Utahns' woes on immigrants, who certainly were not the cause.

The Compact embraces five principles: 1) The issue must be dealt with in Congress; 2) the community should recognize immigrants' contributions; 3) police should focus on criminals; 4) any policy should strive to keep families together; and 5) states should consider immigrants as valued individuals.

Signers include two former Utah governors and the leadership of the Salt Lake Chamber, who now support a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for illegal immigrants, a policy the White House backs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially supported the Compact, though none of its leaders signed it.

Central to the immigration debate, of course, is dysfunctional immigration law, and that must be fixed. But it is, more essentially, about immigrants — people with dreams, with families they love, who are really no different from Americans who gained the citizenship label by right of birth.

Utah's congressmen — all of whom are members of the LDS Church — say they do not support a path to citizenship, and none of them has embraced the Compact. That is disappointing.

Sometimes something as simple as compassion should guide policy.




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