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The Immigration Debate Continues–This Time in Utah

In state associated with people who know and understand persecution, the release by an “anonymous” group of a list of people it claims are illegally in the United States was distrubing. The list is intended to cause panic and concern. The Governor of Utah has correctly already started an investigation into how such a list was compiled and who published this list, given the sensitive and apparently incorrect information it contained, and the damage such information can do to person and their children. But, there is a larger issue here just privacy and security concerns.

It is good that the list was published. Don’t get me wrong. It is not good for the people and their families on the list. It is not good for image of the state of Utah. But, rather, it is good that this list is out there, because it shows the inflammatory nature of the debate on immigration enforcement and reform. Sometimes the truth is sacrificed when points are made about immigration, and that is certainly the case here. It is also good in that is shows the politicians who support anti-immigration legislation the societal consequences of their speeches. Surely they must have realized that this and much worse things were coming? Next time, it might not be just a list. What if someone uses that list to “get” a person on it? We know some of the people are the list are permanent residents and citizens. Will anyone speak for them when harm is done to them?
How could it come to this, in Utah of all places? Let me will tell you how– The mistaken perception that there is no immigration enforcement today, and the public’s desire that the issue of immigration be addressed by a reluctant Congress. It is not an issue of Americans not embracing immigrants. We frequently hear the mantra that we love “legal” immigrants. The bigger problem is that “legal” immigration has become a bureaucratic nightmare bogged down in 20th century laws and not reflective of either our society or an economy of 2010. Yet Congress continues to drag its feet in reforming immigration system. President Obama has broken his promise to Hispanics to push immigration reform. Congress is scared to death to vote on immigration on this mistaken belief that they will lose elections if they support a workable immigration system. Bill O’Rielly understands that the need to reform our system and move forward with workable solution. But vilifying helpless children is not a solution. It is an attack. Unjustified, and unnecessary.
A bigger concern for Utah has to be the fallout and consequences of “The List” and prospective state legislation on immigration. If Utah politicians ignore not only the political consequences, but their own heritage in moving forward toward passing an Arizona style “show me your papers” type of law, Utah will become, like Arizona, an economic pariah. Utah will be faced with declining foreign and domestic investment as the result of efforts to isolate those states that pursue legislation that serves no legitimate law enforcement, drives immigrants further into the shadows and away from the police, and deepens the divide in the United States over what is good for the future of America. Fifty different state laws on immigration policy is not a way to effectively run a country.
If only Utah would lead out on positive immigration reform, the story would be dramatically different and systemically better. I pray that will happen. I fear it will not, because as the founding fathers of Utah learned as the victims of such laws, it is easier to vilify, and spurn, rather than to understand and move forward together toward a postive solution.