A bipartisan Salt Lake County Council joined a wide range of politicians, church leaders and civic officials Tuesday in backing the Utah Compact and its call for "reasonable" immigration reform.
Two Republicans joined the council's five Democrats in the 7-2 vote to sign the compact.
"It's a good thing for us to take a stand on," said Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, a Democrat. "This is a softened, moderated approach."
But some Republicans felt fenced in by the county resolution, brought by outgoing Council Chairman Joe Hatch, a Democrat. They viewed council action as unnecessary and groaned that the move amounted to playing politics.
"I wish we weren't talking about this," said Councilman David Wilde, who voted against joining the compact along with fellow Republican Steve DeBry, a law enforcement officer.
If you read between the lines of the compact, Wilde added, "some people, including me, could take it as an endorsement of amnesty."
DeBry went further. He argued the vast majority of crimes he encounters, particularly drug violations, involve undocumented residents. "Ninety-five, 99 percent of them are illegal immigrants recidivists," he said. "It shouldn't even be on our plate. I wish in Washington they'd get their act together and take care of it."
Studies have shown no correlation between higher crime rates and immigration status, with statistics showing undocumented people do not commit a higher proportion of either major or petty offenses.
The Utah Compact is a declaration of five principles on immigration addressing federal solutions, law enforcement, families, economy and a free society. It makes it clear that immigration reform is a federal policy issue but urges state leaders to adopt "reasonable" policies addressing immigrants in Utah. It also calls upon law enforcement to focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
The latter bothered council Republicans Michael Jensen and Max Burdick, who stated that objection but voted for the resolution anyway.
Hatch and Wilson said the compact is "more conservative" than what they personally advocate, but they called the document a good starting point, worthy of support.
Jason Mathis, who helped write the compact as vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber, pointed to the diversity of supporters such as Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the conservative Sutherland Institute's Paul Mero and former Govs. Norm Bangerter and Mike Leavitt. Utah's predominant faith, the LDS Church, also has endorsed the compact along with a New York Times editorial.
This broad coalition of backers, Councilman Randy Horiuchi said, represents a "profile in courage."
"It is what it purports to be," Mathis said, calling the compact a statement of principle based on compassionate and constructive dialogue. "I don't think there's a call for amnesty."
County targets serial dog breeders
Backyard breeders operating so-called puppy mills will face new rules in unincorporated Salt Lake County.
Thanks to a unanimous County Council vote Tuesday, "volume" dog breeders will be required to get an annual license if they breed more than one litter in a year.
No more than two litters could be delivered in an 18-month period, according to the ordinance, the first of its kind in Utah.
Breeders must comply with health and safety standards administered by the county's animal services division. That includes keeping suitable temperatures, getting annual examinations by veterinarians and keeping dog records. Violators would face a class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $1,000 fine and a possible six-month jail sentence.
"It is a very humane ordinance," Councilman Randy Horiuchi said. "It will make us a much more animal-friendly place."
Gene Baierschmidt, executive director of the Humane Society of Utah, agreed. "It will reduce the number of dogs coming into animal shelters," he said, "and in turn hopefully reduce the number of animals that are euthanized." The council will formally adopt the measure Dec. 14.
Derek P. Jensen
Read the compact
P You can find the Utah Compact at the website › utahcompact.com