A group of Utah business and community leaders wants Congress to act on immigration reform saying the current system is broken.
“Immigration is a problem that needs to be solved,” said Jonathan Johnson, chairman of the board for Overstock.com. “Doing nothing continues the broken system. Nobody wants to be here illegally, but our system is nearly impossible to navigate. Nobody would crawl in my bedroom window if they knew I would let them in the front door if they knocked.”
Thursday’s roundtable discussion was sponsored by The Partnership for a New American Economy, an organization founded by Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch to push for immigration reform.
Most of the discussion centered on the executive orders issued by President Obama Thursday night to address immigration, chief among them was a plan to allow illegal immigrants who have been here for more than 5 years a plan to stay in America temporarily without fear of deportation.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, who joined via video conference from Washington, D.C., worried the president was setting up a system that rewards people who are here illegally.
“We should not be giving these people rights and freedoms that allow them to jump ahead of those who are already standing in line,” said Hatch.
Sen. Mike Lee also spoke via videoconference. He sounded a refrain that was echoed by most of the roundtable attendees, the president should wait for Congress to take action on immigration.
“This is not going to be helpful toward building a consensus that we need to get something passed,” said Lee about the president’s executive action on immigration. “The two parties agree on 70-80% of the issues. We need to start with what’s agreeable to everyone, then we can start building confidence. These issues need to be handled through the proper channels, not by a president who is acting as a ‘super legislature’.”
However, panelists agreed the president’s action on immigration might spark Congress into finally taking action on the issue.
“I think this is going to create friction with the new Congress,” said Johnson. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do, but it might start the battle and push the GOP to act more quickly.”
“What he’s trying to accomplish might be the right thing,” said Jorge Dennis, president of Envirokleen, “It’s the means I disagree with. The new Congress is not even given a chance to address the issue.”
Former Utah Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, now with Zions Bank, said Utah has been leading the way on the immigration issue, primarily through the Utah Compact.
“We are focusing on the economic impact of immigration, but there’s also a human toll,” said Romero. “It’s important to remember this is about jobs, but it’s also about families. The Latino community wants a final and permanent solution.”
Stan Lockhart, Government Affairs Manager for IM Flash, says it’s time to stop talking and to take action.
“We have this same discussion every time,” he said. “The federal government acts like this is rocket science, but it’s not so complex that we need a 2,000 page document to fix this. If we can focus on the outcome instead of who looks best politically, that’s what we should be doing.”