Empowerment • Mathis of Downtown Alliance, chamber gets Cesar Chavez award.
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Washington • The White House on Tuesday honored a Salt Lake City community leader who helped push the Utah Compact.
Jason Mathis, director of the Downtown Alliance and executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, was named a Cesar Chavez Champion for Change, along with 10 other immigration-reform activists.
The award is named for labor activist and civil rights luminary Cesar Chavez. Although President Barack Obama wasn't at the ceremony, the recipients were introduced by Julie Rodriguez, Chavez's granddaughter and associate director of Latino affairs and immigration for the White House's Office of Public Engagement.
In a panel discussion with four other recipients, Mathis sang the praises of the Utah Compact, a declaration of compassionate immigration reform principles that grew out of Arizona's tough enforcement bill that "sent a chill down the spine of many people in the community."
As a result, more than a hundred businesses, law enforcement officials, political groups and faith organizations signed the compact, which was also endorsed but not signed by the LDS Church. The compact emphasizes that immigration is a federal issue but also that any reform should focus on keeping families together.
"By simply and elegantly stating that it's 250 words it really empowered people to do the right thing," Mathis said.
He also noted that Utah has been home to immigrants throughout its history, stretching back to when Mormon pioneers moved to the area.
"Our country is made up of waves of immigrants," Mathis said. "And that's what has made our country strong."