Burgess Owens’ lies at U.S. border are not the Utah way, Tribune Editorial Board writes

This red state doesn’t demonize and its representative shouldn’t, either.

(House Judiciary Republicans) Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, and Republican colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee speak to a border agent during a visit to Texas on April 6, 2021.

“Believe me, the borders are open right now. We are seeing every single day, people coming here and within hours getting on a train or a plane and going to your neighborhood.

“So, no, Americans, this isn’t a border issue anymore.

“They are coming to your neighborhoods, not knowing the language, not knowing the culture, and there is a cartel influence along the way. So be aware, don’t think this is a distance from you now, this is coming your way and it is done on purpose by a party who could care less about we, the people.”

These are not the words of an esteemed member of Congress. They are the words of Rep. Burgess Owens.

That these words are a string of lies is secondary to their odious intent: To treat anyone who looks new to this country with suspicion. Anyone who doesn’t know the language or “the culture” should be suspected of working for criminal enterprises.

That is fearmongering and it stands in stark contrast to the prevailing attitude in Utah.

A wide majority in this deep red state has said it loud and clear over and over: We welcome those from foreign lands who want to do better, who want to escape poverty and violence, who want to see if America is still the beacon on the hill.

We welcome them into our neighborhoods whether they arrive by train, plane or on foot with all of their belongings, as many others have for the past 174 years.

Owens should go back and read the 2010 Utah Compact, the landmark document signed by a wide swath of religious, political and business leaders. The Compact has guided the state’s moderate approach to immigration in the years since: “Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.”

Then Owens should go back and review Utah’s recent history with refugees. When the congressman’s favorite president shut down the refugee pipeline and a third of refugee programs across the country closed down, Utah kept going strong. Now Utahns are leaning hard on the current president to restore that pipeline.

“In Salt Lake County, we witness the positive impacts of our refugee population every day,” County Mayor Jenny Wilson said. “Refugees invigorate our economies, bring innovation to our towns, and strengthen our communities through their contributions to our public life and cultural institutions.”

Utahns don’t think of immigrants as a distant threat. When we hear foreign languages on a train or plane, we don’t wonder if they’re drug dealers. We’re smarter and kinder than that.

Your words are destructive and your constituents know it.

“We, the people,” Congressman? That includes all of us.