Immigration is a hot button topic.
Merely mentioning immigration reform causes many opponents to verbally lash out at “the immigrant invasion,” threatening to undermine the economic, political, and social underpinnings of our society.
As the public divide grows, our national leadership fails to provide any solutions. Afraid of a voter backlash, they become invisible to the public they’re elected to serve.
Meanwhile, our broken immigration system remains broken.
Immigration Reform Depends On Civil Discourse And Debate
To be sure, there is no easy fix.
In many industries, highly skilled and lower skilled employees are needed. Green cards and permanent residence applications based on family relationships are often delayed 10, 15, 20 years due to backlogs. Families with U.S. citizen children and spouses are shattered due to unduly harsh rules written over a decade ago.
Yet, when I’m asked what it will take to deal with our immigration issues, I don’t focus on specific proposals.
Being a San Diego immigration attorney, I’m exposed to countless immigration reform ideas – and most of them would help improve the immigration system, albeit in varying degrees.
To me, the proposals, the ideas are the second step. The first step is finding common ground.
To find common ground, all sides must be willing to engage in a give-and-take process.
Believe it or not, this can happen. I think most Americans would welcome such an approach. Except for our nation’s xenophobic anti-immigration rabble rousers and their followers.
But if we reduce their influence, middle ground can be reached.
The Utah Compact
A few months ago, as noted in An Emerging Political Middle, political, business, law enforcement, and religious leaders a core set of principles to guide immigration reform discussions. Based on moderation and civility, they drafted a declaration of five principles to guide their immigration discussions.
Termed the Utah Compact, a condensed outline of the five principles follows:
FEDERAL SOLUTIONS – Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries – not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strength federal laws and protect our national borders.
LAW ENFORCEMENT – We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
FAMILIES – Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families.
ECONOMY – 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.
A FREE SOCIETY – Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history, and spirit of inclusion.
In addition, the Compact emphasizes, “The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors.”
A Model For Communities Throughout The United States
Although some of the wording can be interpreted in multiple ways, the overarching theme of the Compact is a marvelous accomplishment of compromise in action.
It’s time for more communities to follow Utah’s footsteps.
By Carlos Batara, Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics