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You can be a Utah conservative and a strong advocate for the civil rights of immigrants — but it isn't easy. I should know.

Throughout the years I have asserted that support for immigrants' rights goes hand-in-hand with "conservative, Constitution-loving, free-market-type" thinking.

As a university student, I came to the United States from Honduras, where I had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After moving to Utah I married into a family of entrepreneurs.

Early on, I got involved in helping Mexican immigrants navigate the road to citizenship. In recent years, my business and community involvement earned me positions with the Utah Hispanic Republican Assembly and the Utah Hispanic Latino Legislative Taskforce, where I served as the Republican co-chair.

But in December, when an incident at the Salt Lake office of Sen. Orrin Hatch sent a DREAM Act activist to jail — where the youth sat without being charged on a federal marshal hold — I raised a strong voice in support of the detainee. The aftermath resulted in my resignation from the Utah Hispanic Republican Assembly. I knew that opposing Sen. Hatch could be damaging to any political aspirations and professional career, but I forged ahead on principle.

Advocating for marginalized communities certainly isn't limited to Hispanics. After an incident with a Bosnian Muslim refugee who was involved in a shooting, I spoke out on behalf of the Bosnian Muslim community, which had many insults hurled its way.

I was recently named one of 15 Freedom from Fear Award winners from around the country. The awards honor ordinary people who have committed extraordinary acts of courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees — individuals who have taken a risk, set an example, and inspired others to awareness or action.

I believe that all of us can stand up for basic human dignity for all people, including immigrants. After being nominated for this award, I have become northwest director of the national Latino grassroots group Somos Republicans and the first Utah state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens.

According to the latest Census numbers, Utah grew by approximately 24 percent in the past decade, and about 77 percent of that growth came from the Latino population. So we can say that Latinos accounted for Utah gaining a fourth congressional seat.

I am a registered Republican living in the reddest of states. I have witnessed the irrational nature of the anti-immigrant movement in my own community and my own party, the party of Lincoln and Reagan. While I agree with 80 percent of the GOP platform, in the area of immigration reform and attitude toward our immigrant families we couldn't be more dissimilar.

Recently, those opposing Utah's HB116 held a news conference calling those in favor of the bill traitors to Utah. This is after the LDS Church issued a statement that it favors some sort of legal status for immigrants who contribute to the community. I favor a federal solution to the immigration issue, but Congress will not act and is resorting to the same partisan politics that have permeated Washington for too long. It is understandable why states are taking matters into their own hands, not just on immigration but on many other fronts.

A recent poll conducted by impreMedia/Latino Decisions found that a majority of Latino voters (53 percent) said they know someone who is undocumented, while 25 percent said they know a person or a family member who is facing deportation or been deported. The poll was of registered voters, who by definition are U.S. citizens.

This country and this state have more pressing problems at present, but blaming immigrants and others minority populations seems to be a very useful tool to distract the populace from the real issues.

I am now extremely unpopular among many conservatives. They abhor my views on immigration and my insistence that the state has no business trying to usurp federal authority to enforce immigration laws.

Yet I remain hopeful that my status as a conservative Mormon businesswoman will help my fellow Utahns to find the courage to stand up and do the right thing.

Antonella Packard is a recipient of the Freedom from Fear Award ( She lives in Saratoga Springs.