Utah Leaders Urge Fix for ‘Broken’ Immigration System

Local political, business and faith leaders said Monday they welcome U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s “principles” on immigration reform, but while a good start a lot more work needs be done in reforming American’s “broken” immigration system.


You can read the House GOP’s six principles here.

In a media conference call Monday morning, Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, said now is the time for real action on immigration reform.

Beattie said that the GOP principles are a good match with the Utah Compact, a series of reform ideas adopted by many local civic and religious leaders several years ago.

You can read the Compact here and compare.

It is unlikely that the Utah Legislature, now in general session, will take up immigration again this year. In part, that’s because the LDS Church has not asked for any new legislation onimmigration, partly because any comprehensive immigration reform must come from the federal government.

“This solution must be federal driven,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

“It is important” that any immigration reform have an enforcement component, but one that “tracks with the reality in the world we live in.”

Jonathan Johnson, executive vice-chairman of Overstock.com, a Utah-based internet company, said it makes no sense, in fact is counterproductive, to have well-educated college graduates, legally here on education visas, have to leave the country and go to work for competitive outside firms, rather than stay in America and help our economy grow.

(Editor’s note: Overstock.com is a UtahPolicy sponsor.)

His firm needs mathematicians, statisticians and technologists, said Johnson (who may be looking at a GOP run for governor in 2016).

“Other countries are recruiting those American-trained Phds. We need to fix this, so skilled workers stay here and create jobs,” Johnson said.

Steve Klemz, pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, gave his own personal account of the mixed-up, uncertain and broken immigration court system.

Klemz said he has twice been into the immigration court system trying to get a Green Card, a legal resident work visa.

“Will we be deported? We are in limbo,” said Klemz. All people should be able to live in the U.S. legally and without fear.”

Stan Lockhart, government affairs director for Micron (and husband of Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo), said he can’t understand immigration reform opponents who claim there can be no amnesty for those here illegally.

Today, in America we say it is OK to be here illegally as long as you live in the shadows and don’t make waves.
“That is amnesty,” he said.

Rather reform should allow those already here to “make things right, still stay here and raise a family.”

Forcing well-educated college graduates to leave, because they can’t get the proper work visa, “is nonsensical; let them stay.”

Congress shouldn’t get bogged down over who and who can’t become a citizen, said Lockhart.

“We are in a marathon, a long journey,” he said. Right now, on the cusp of reform, we are in mile one, two or three. Citizenship is mile 26.

It may be “ironic,” said the former chair of the Utah Republican Party, “But we must keep politics out of it and do what is right: Sensible immigration reform.”