For real reform
Time for an American Compact
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In its efforts to deal with the large numbers of undocumented workers who live in our state, Utah can pass harsh laws that crack down on hardworking laborers, break up families and sow mistrust among neighbors and between communities and the police. Or it can pass compassionate laws that offer legal paths to employment and higher education.

Or it can not do much of anything. Because real reform — reform that makes sense from a legal, an economic and a humane perspective — has to come from Congress.

This was the first principle of The Utah Compact, the statement made a year ago by many of the state's political, business and religious leaders. And it was the motivation for a new call for federal action voiced by the Salt Lake Chamber.

Even if the Constitution did not place the authority for immigration law in the hands of Congress, it makes no sense for there to be 50 different immigration standards. The resulting puzzle can only make life difficult for businesses seeking to hire temporary workers, very difficult for legal immigrants and visa-holding workers, and downright impossible for millions of migrants who are at once demanded by economic realities and damned by political opportunists.

Even as The Utah Compact has drawn praise from across the nation, other states have pursued only harsh enforcement options. Utah's own members of Congress have pursued piecemeal approaches that range from building fences and bulldozing environmental regulations along the border to more visas for high-tech workers and extended welcomes for goatherds.

It is understandable that both states and individual members of Congress would grasp at such straws when the people who really decide the national agenda — the president and the leaders of Congress — have shown little stomach for tackling the issue responsibly. But each and all of these moves are less a solution than a cry for help, a protest that real reform is long overdue.

While President Obama's administration makes contradictory claims about its own deportation practices, and those who would replace him draw applause for suggesting alligator-infested moats, the problem goes unsolved.

The borders that people cross illegally are borders between nations, not states. The economy that pushes and pulls labor from one place to another is global. Those who cross those borders and provide that labor are human beings.

It is past time for the Utah Compact to become the American Compact.