On Pioneer Day this year, we thought about how much we have to be grateful for as Utahns. Utah has a strong economy in a scenic setting and is home to an increasingly diverse population, while also being a model for a balanced approach to immigration.

In our nation’s capital, however, the opposite seems to be the case. President Trump has repeatedly targeted four congresswomen of color. The president’s obvious agitation at being questioned by democratically elected representatives has led him to ask — menacingly, given the power he wields — “Why don’t they go back?" if they don’t like it in the U.S. He has demeaned them publicly and in his tweets. Through his escalating anti-immigration rhetoric, Trump continues to diminish the high office he holds — and endanger entire categories of people.

One of us writes as the son of an Italian immigrant family, who came to the U.S. in 1916 without many dollars but a dream. The other one of us writes as a former representative of the U.S. government, who got to know hundreds of Muslims across a decade-long State Department career, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of us are very concerned about the serious and lasting damage being done to America — indeed to our brand. Instead of a shining city on a hill, foreigners see a raised drawbridge. A racially charged country that is greatly divided and fortress-like by presidential design.

America has long proclaimed to the world to bring us the tired, the poor and the hungry. The outcasts. All of us have come from somewhere, with only Native Americans rightly being able to proclaim otherwise. The welcoming of immigrants to America across decades has not been without restrictions or controversy. Irish, Chinese, and Japanese-Americans, among others, have faced outright bigotry.

The same is true for Mormons — ostracized and forced on a trek west as a persecuted religious minority. If any community should have an instinctive understanding of what it is to be on the receiving end of a mob, it is members of Utah’s dominant faith.

Many immigrants and refugees continue to flee their countries due to danger and social unrest and to seek better lives here. When they reach the border, families have been separated from children and placed in fenced-in cages. These procedures appear intended to punish entire classes of people from Latin America. The rest of the world sees these actions and mistreatment as a contradiction to claims that the U.S. is a country with a conscience.

America should not be allowed to become like a jellybean jar where certain leaders pick out the ones they like and throw out the rest. It was President Ronald Reagan in his final farewell speech three decades ago who credited immigrants as a crucial part of the nation’s fabric. Reagan said, “We lead the world because unique among nations, we draw our people, our strength, from every country and every corner of the world.”

It is time for Utahns, who are decent folk, to stand up and speak out.

We urge Utah’s representatives not to be silent now or going forward. Only Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ben McAdams have had the moral courage to challenge these divisive policies. The others — where is their moral compass? — should as well despite being in the same party as President Trump. But so should we, as individual citizens and Utahns. Our country can only remain as strong as it remains vigilant when race is used to dehumanize and divide.

By putting our country over any political party, perhaps the divisions can begin to close. Otherwise, apathy equals acquiescence.


John Zaccheo, a 92-year old Rotarian, is the son of Italian immigrants and former pizza and Italian restaurant owner and business executive.


Kael Weston, great grandson of Danish and English immigrant farmers, is a former U.S. State Department official and instructor at Westminster College and Marine Corps University and author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan.”



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John Zaccheo, a 92-year old Rotarian, is the son of Italian immigrants and former pizza and Italian restaurant owner and business executive.

Kael Weston, great grandson of Danish and English immigrants, is a former U.S. State Department official and instructor at Westminster College and Marine Corps University and author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan.”