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“The Utah Way” : Big Love for Immigrants?

March 12th, 2011 12 comments

Utah, one of the country’s most conservative states, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-1, has turned its back on those Republicans who advocate deportation in favor of those who want immigration reform.  The bill has passed both houses of the state legislature and the governor is expected to sign it.

What exactly does the  ‘ Utah Way ‘  advocate?  First off, it gives local law enforcement  a provision that they say won’t really matter and it provides for a guest worker program that lawmakers feel will make all the difference in the world.  That last component of the proposed law will grant legal status to undocumented workers.  The legal status isn’t free.  It would provide  work permits to undocumented immigrant workers, and their immediate families, if they  pay a fine, clear a criminal background check and study English.

According to the Washington Post:

Advocates of the compact included the police, some key elected officials and, critically, the Mormon church, whose members include perhaps 90 percent of Utah’s state lawmakers. They understood that the fast-growing Hispanic community, which counts for 13 percent of Utah’s population and may include more than 100,000 undocumented workers, is vital to the state’s tourism, agriculture and construction industries.

The advocates’ genius was to reframe the cause of immigration reform, including the guest-worker program, as fundamentally a conservative project. In the face of sound bites from reform opponents such as “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” Utah conservatives shot back with: What part of destroying the economy don’t you understand? And by the way, what part of breaking up families don’t you understand?

 

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