Lopsided immigration agenda baffles residents

Published August 15, 2008 9:45 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 9:45 PM- It's not exactly a traveling carnival, but one stop on the Legislature's roving Immigration Interim Committee's agenda might see some barkers and games of skill that could bring the undocumented-worker conundrum into sharp focus.

Ironically, its Aug. 27 Summit County agenda will be dominated by anti-immigration voices - like Eli Cawley of Utah's Minuteman Project - in an area where the thriving tourist economy is powered by immigrant labor.

That leaves some in the Park City area shaking their heads. Among them is Shelley Weiss of the Community Outreach Center.

State lawmakers "didn't realize the agenda isn't representative of our community," she said Friday. "When I asked to speak, they told me there was no more room on the agenda."

Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, said she, too, is "baffled."

"I don't know why this group is coming," she said. "The potential for explosive comments makes me uncomfortable."

It will be the third of eight such hearings aimed at determining whether Utah's immigration law passed earlier this year - known as SB81 - should be amended before it becomes law July 1.

State Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, who co-chairs the committee, explained that agendas and speakers were selected earlier as part of the on-going legislative process.

"They've been very patiently waiting their turn," he said, noting that pro-immigrant groups addressed the committee at previous meetings.

Jenkins acknowledged the importance of Summit County's immigrant work force.

"One of our greatest fears is that we'll chase people out and destroy our economy," he said. "We don't want that."

Utah Minuteman's Cawley said he will urge the committee to put some "enforcement teeth" into the law before it is enacted. Otherwise, he said, it will be ignored, like federal immigration laws are.

He, too, recognized Park City's economy is underpinned by immigrant laborers.

"The great majority of them are undocumented," he said, noting that businesses want cheap labor, but that it diminishes jobs and wages for the rest of the population.

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