Commentary: How to put The Utah Compact into action

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Salt Lake City business and civic leaders gathered Thursday to reaffirm the principles of The Utah Compact, initially adopted in 2010. The compact emphasizes humane treatment of immigrants, keeping families together and focusing deportation on serious criminals.

The Utah Compact was reaffirmed on March 21, once again putting Utah at the forefront of a more balanced approach to immigration. However, the principles of the compact are aspirational and leave supporters wondering how this vision can translate into meaningful action.

Federally elected officials from all political parties have failed to reform our immigration system for more than 30 years. Therefore, state and local governments, businesses and communities should take collective action to bring equality, full justice and respect for human rights to all Utahns, including our state’s immigrants.

Here are some steps we can take to put the spirit of the Utah Compact into action:

Principle 1: Federal Solutions

  • Ask our Congressional delegation to take immediate action on immigration. Ask them to support H.R. 6 The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 or develop other solutions. H.R. 6 allows Dreamers and individuals with Temporary Protected Status to contribute fully in the country they love and know to be their home by providing a pathway to citizenship.

  • Constantly engage with our delegation to hold them accountable to uphold the principles of the Utah Compact in every vote they take.

Principle 2: Law Enforcement

  • All local law enforcement agencies in the state should create and enforce a policy to serve and protect everyone in their communities, regardless of immigration status.

  • End all collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement to ensure there is no pipeline to deportation. Local governments have no legal obligation to help enforce federal immigration laws and oftentimes voluntarily offer assistance to ICE at their own expense.

  • Clear U Visa policies: establish policies and protocols for signing U Visa certifications.

Principle 3: Families

  • Increase access to health care for all families. Expand health insurance coverage to all Utah children and strengthen current safety-net programs.

  • Expand access to affordable, high quality and culturally competent early childhood education and care.

  • Invest in working adults to help them succeed in community college, such as supportive services, short-term financial aid and career counselors.

Principle 4: Economy

  • Increase and expand immigrant’s access to workforce development programs, including English as a Second Language, adult education, and training programs.

  • Ensure access to a living wage and make employer-based health coverage attainable for all employees.

  • Support immigrant asset building by encouraging small business ownership, home ownership, and protections against discriminatory and predatory products and practices.

Principle 5: A Free Society

  • Municipalities should create offices of New Americans or Immigrant Affairs to build unity between longer-term residents and immigrant communities.

  • Create and implement a multi-sector plan around civic, linguistic and economic integration of immigrants and long-term engagement of receiving communities.

  • Donate your time and resources to grassroots, immigrant-led efforts in the state of Utah to bring change from the ground up.

Luis Garza |Comunidades Unidas

Luis Garza is executive director of Comunidades Unidas/Communities United, a Utah-based immigrant rights organization established in 1999 with the mission to empower communities to be healthy, self-sufficient and civically engaged.