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McEntee: Utah Compact makes compassionate sense
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It seems so simple: A reasoned, principled and concise treatise on how Utah's immigration issues can and should be debated.

In short, the Utah Compact deems immigration policy and enforcement a strictly federal issue and urges compassion for all families, immigrant or not. It advocates a free-market philosophy and acknowledges the role played by immigrant workers and taxpayers.

By Friday afternoon, the list of signers included business and religious leaders, community activists, and just plain people from all over the state. And, although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not put its name on the list, it issued a strong endorsement for the compact.

That came as a shock to state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, who is writing a bill that, like a controversial Arizona law, would have local law enforcement keep an eye out for undocumented workers.

What Sandstrom seems to have forgotten, however, is that the LDS Church has always been involved in political issues. Topping the list, of course, is liquor control, but the faith has weighed in on issues ranging from the MX missile proposal in 1981 to California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in that state in 2008 and is now in federal court.

It's noteworthy that Paul Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute, not only signed the compact but says that given it and the LDS endorsement, Sandstrom's bill is DOA.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, who's among dozens of Utah chiefs to oppose having his officers roust suspected undocumented people, has to be cheered by that. He was out of town Friday, but a spokeswoman says he'll be signing the compact Monday.

Political skirmishes aside, the Utah Compact just makes sense.

It puts immigration policy squarely in the federal bailiwick where it belongs, even though Congress hasn't been able to make any progress on meaningful reform.

The compact already has united a diverse element of Utah's population (except for, I'm sure, Minutemen, tea party aficionados and a certain U.S. senator-elect). And it recognizes that this is a nation — and certainly a state — built on the intelligence, talent and courage of immigrants and indigenous peoples.

Signatory and former Republican Gov. Olene Walker gives much credit to the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, even as she says there was no "main player."

The chamber "sparked the question — shouldn't the citizens get together on this important issue?"

No one wanted unintended consequences, Walker says, so all the parties took their time, thought things through and collectively came up with a set of clearly defined principles, which seem pretty down to earth to me.

Preserving strong families is on the list, although I wish it would specify all types of families, including those with same-sex parents. We certainly could use a healthier economy that would, as the compact says, acknowledge the contribution of all workers. And it concludes that "Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of good will."

Still, we have to acknowledge the deep-seated acrimony of the immigration debate here and in the rest of the country. It certainly is time for Congress to stop dodging the issue, and we need to insist it does.

I do hope the Utah Compact nudges the conversation toward a broad strategy that creates a system in which immigrants can earn the right to be American citizens.

Now, not in some distant future, is the time to do just that.

Peg McEntee is a columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com

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