Salt Lake City to roll out immigrant 'welcome'
Immigrants should be treated with dignity and respect while being welcomed and embraced by residents and community groups regardless of legal status according to a resolution passed unanimously Tuesday night by the Salt Lake City Council.
The resolution is part of a national movement called "Welcoming America," with Salt Lake City joining 10 communities and 20 states that have adopted such a measure.
Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke read the resolution aloud to an almost full chamber and Welcoming Utah Initiative Coordinator Diana Paredes said the purpose of the measure was to "help long-term residents understand the importance of being an ally to the immigrant and refugee community."
The resolution doesn't state specifically whether the legal status of an immigrant should be considered in welcoming them to the city, but says "all are welcome, accepted and integrated" and it criticizes "policies that negate opportunities for contributions to our community in the fullest capacity."
Supporters of the resolution said the time was right to adopt the measure after the November election, where President Barack Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney handily while also carrying more than 70 percent of the Latino vote.
That defeat has led some in the Republican Party to reconsider their views on immigration reform, including conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, who long espoused tough immigration policies.
Jean Hill, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said the resolution was an outgrowth of The Utah Compact, which was signed more than two years ago by a coalition of religious, business and political leaders in the state. That document was a series of guiding principles that sought a more compassionate approach to immigration reform and was a refutation of Arizona's enforcement-only law, SB1070.
The Rev. Steve Klemz, pastor of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, said now was the right moment for the resolution.
"The climate is ripe for this," he said. "The immigration debate has taken a turn since the presidential election."
But many cities passed similar resolutions well before the 2012 election.
Dayton (Ohio) City Manager Tim Riordan said their resolution passed in late 2011 and has resulted in a series of initiatives aimed at integrating the immigrant community with residents who have long, deep roots in the city.
He said the resolution spawned a Dayton World Cup, a website devoted to welcoming immigrants to Dayton and a list of resources for new arrivals in the city.
"What I think it did was it showed there are a lot of hard-working Americans who are supportive of immigrants and their cultures," Riordan said. "But the subject had taken on such a nasty tone, we decided to have the council take it up and put the issue above-board."
Not everyone saw the resolution in a positive light, however.
Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, has been a staunch critic of illegal immigration and said the resolution will only enhance the image of Salt Lake City as a "sanctuary city for illegal immigrants." He said it was a misguided attempt to equalize illegal immigrants with legal immigrants.
"It's a slap in the face to those waiting in line," he said. "Those who are trying to do it the right way, it's a disservice to them."