A year ago Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie stood before a press conference demanding that Congress act on immigration reform.
Well, the U.S. Senate did.
But Republicans in the U.S. House won’t act on such reform this year – its leaders say.
And that has Beattie and other western states leaders on immigration reform once again frustrated, and calling for action.
It’s likely Beattie and his companions can make their reservations for another immigration reform press conference in 2015, however.
Cause it aint gonna happen in 2014.
Beattie, who served several terms as Utah Senate president in the 1990s, and those who stood with him Tuesday afternoon in the Utah Capitol Plaza, are not giving up, however.
Joint press conferences were held by Americans For Reform in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and New Mexico Tuesday, each calling on their U.S. House members to act; and asking their U.S. senators to push for such action.
Still, the political goal seems unlikely.
Because the 435 seats in the U.S. House are up this year, and a third of the 100-member Senate, the majority House Republicans just don’t want to take any chances that they could lose their majority – or GOP senators risk the opportunity to take control of the Senate.
Thus, inaction is better than risk – at least as the politicians see it.
Richard Nelson, president of the Utah Technology Council, put his finger on the challenge: Because of vacations and adjourning for the fall elections, in reality there are only seven working weeks left in the 2014 U.S. House before Americans vote in November.
“We call on our congressmen to act now, we are desperate for talent” and workers in the high tech industries, Nelson said.
Some may claim that the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States are taking jobs away from American citizens, but that is just wrong, said Nelson.
In fact, illegals are creating businesses and economic development, day in and out.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said even though immigrants make up only 12.9 percent of the U.S. population, they created 28 percent of the new businesses in 2011.
They make up 25 percent of all the workers in construction, health care, retail and the hospitality industries, he said.
Mom and pop shops started by immigrants soon turn into regional, national and international businesses, creating millions of jobs for all Americans.
Several local religious representatives said it is America’s moral ideals on the line with immigration reform.
The Rev. Steve Klemz, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, said for him it is not about growing the U.S. economy or creating a better business climate. “I can speak about God’s economy – being well, fairing well, living in peace.”
There needs to be a pathway to legal citizenship in immigration reform, Klemz said, “to protect families against separation, and protect migrate workers.”
Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute, a local conservative think tank, said the general idea may be that real conservatives are against comprehensive immigration reform.
But that’s wrongheaded thinking.
He supported the far-reaching Utah immigration reform efforts of several years ago – which need federal action to be realized.
And if conservatives really studied the reform principles in the Utah Compact, then Congress would find a way to solve this problem, he said.
“Let’s pray that Congress takes this on,” said Mero. He said he has full confidence that if conservatives in the U.S. House and across the nation look at the Utah Compact and the Utah solution to immigration reform, they can and will accept it.
“But our Utah delegation must step up to the plate,” he added.
U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart – along with the House members in the other five states that joined together on Tuesday, make up a “caucus” that can push other House Republicans forward, said Beattie.
But with GOP House leaders saying there will be no immigration reform this election year, it’s likely that Bettie et al. will be back holding a similar press conference in the spring of 2015.