Salt Lake Chamber attacks nomination of anti-illegal immigration activist Ron Mortensen to State Department

Ron Mortensen, a co-founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration and a retired U.S. foreign service officer, published a critical account of LDS Church involvement in the issue of illegal immigration. File Photo

The Salt Lake Chamber on Friday joined a chorus of critics calling for President Donald Trump to withdraw the nomination of Utah anti-illegal immigration activist Ron Mortensen as assistant secretary of state overseeing refugees and migration.

“We call upon the Trump administration to withdraw its nomination of Ronald Mortensen and upon Utah’s congressional delegation to actively oppose it,” the chamber’s immigration task force said a written statement.

It also urged the president and congressional delegation “to work together to find a candidate who reflects core Utah values.”

The chamber added that it has worked to develop “a pragmatic and business-friendly approach to comprehensive immigration reform,” including helping push the Utah Compact — a set of set of principles supporting keeping immigrant families together and recognizing their economic contributions. Mortensen does not share its views.

He has written extensively that illegal immigration brings crime, disease and job losses for American citizens.

The chamber said, “As a state originally settled by religious refugees, Utah has a strong history of welcoming those with a desire to help build a vibrant community. Utahns value compassion, openness and economic prosperity.”

Mortensen, a retired foreign service officer, has attracted opposition from national and Utah Latino and immigration groups.

He is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for reducing immigrant populations and is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also co-founded the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, which worked for legislation that “addresses the negative impacts of illegal immigration.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must consider Mortensen’s nomination, has criticized the nomination — signaling that Democrats will oppose it.

And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a member of that committee, has said he will oppose Mortensen.

Flake’s opposition puts the nomination in jeopardy because Republicans hold only a one-seat majority on the committee. Neither of Utah’s senators sits on the panel.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee have not said whether they will vote for Mortensen if his nomination reaches the full Senate. Neither has endorsed the appointment.