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May 2: Arizona's Immigration Law and Battling Illiteracy

Posted - May 2, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.



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In this Sunday Edition, KSL's Bruce Lindsay discusses Arizona's new controversial immigration law with Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank and Rep. Carl Wimmer. Also, KSL's Nadine Wimmer and reading advocate Barbara Smith explain the importance of reading and Deseret Media Company's new literacy campaign.

Segment 1: Arizona's Controversial Immigration Law

On April 23, Arizona's governor signed into law a bill that requires local and state law enforcement to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to be in the United States illegally. Arizona's decision has touched off a raw debate across the country over immigration policy and constitutional protections.


The one thing that they cannot use... is the race of the individual as the sole reason to create that reasonable suspicion. That is written right into the law.

–Rep. Carl Wimmer


On April 29, a Tucson police officer filed one of the first lawsuits to challenge the law. Officer Martin Escobar argues there's no way for officers to confirm people's immigration status without getting in the way of investigations, and, he claims, the new law violates numerous constitutional rights.

In an exclusive Dan Jones poll for KSL and the Deseret News, 65 percent of the respondents said they would strongly or somewhat favor a similar law here in Utah. Rep. Steve Sandstrom, R-Orem, says he is prepared to sponsor a similar law for Utah and Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, is behind him. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank thinks it is bad law.

Wimmer explains how he interprets Arizona's law. "All it would do, is once I have legally made contact or contacted a person for a lawful reason, at that point, if as I am discussing with them the reason for the stop originally... I obtain reasonable suspicion that they are an illegal immigrant," says Wimmer. "I, at that point, can start to investigate whether or not they are a citizen of the United States."

He says that officers will have to use their discretion. "The one thing that they cannot use... is the race of the individual as the sole reason to create that reasonable suspicion. That is written right into the law," Wimmer explains.


We're going to ask our police officers to do something that, in my mind, questions or falls close to being unconstitutional. Why would we want to put our police officers in that position?

–Chief Chris Burbank


According to Wimmer there are several indicators, other than race, to create reasonable suspicion. "You can use all sorts of things. For example, one of the rules to become a legal immigrant is that you must be proficient in English. If someone is not proficient in English, there is one particular clue.... If you ask for their identification, they hand you a Mexico drivers license or drivers license from another country," describes Wimmer. "And if you ask for a legal documentation or a legal identification from this state and they don't have one, that would help to build the reasonable suspicion that you would need to further investigate whether or not they were a legal or illegal immigrant."

Burbank worries that the law creates biased policing.

"In the state of Utah there is no requirement to have Utah identification to live here... nor do you need to carry it, only when you drive a motor vehicle. The idea that if they don't have that, that somehow raises the suspicion, we will be contacting unnecessarily citizens of the United States as well as those individuals who are here, documented and properly in the United States. That's an unfair impact and, in my opinion, is biased policing," explains Burbank.

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Burbank believes that police should be concerned with behavior and worries that the law requires police to treat different people differently.

"We're going to ask our police officers to do something that, in my mind, questions or falls close to being unconstitutional. Why would we want to put our police officers in that position? Would you want your family members to be stopped and detained by police officers differently than someone else? Any time that we engage in policing based on race, based on ethnicity, language, gender, there is a whole list of things, but if we are taking enforcement action using those as criteria for taking different enforcement action with different people, well then that's wrong."

Segment 2: Literacy

Thirty-two-thousand Utah students in kindergarten through third grade are non-proficient readers. Studies show that if children cannot read by the third grade, they likely never will. Deseret Media Company, KSL's parent company, recently launched an aggressive literacy campaign to turn Utah children into better readers.

Barbara Smith, Utah Family Partnership executive director and Davis School District board member, and KSL's Nadine Wimmer explain the importance of reading.


Pre-reading skills are developed when a child is first born. Read, read, read. Read everything, read poems, read stories, hold your child in your lap and read to them.

–Barbara Smith


According to Smith, children are not reading at grade level because of their experiences before they start school.

"Pre-reading skills are developed when a child is first born," says Smith. Parents need to read to their children starting at birth. "Read, read, read... read everything, read poems, read stories, hold your child in your lap and read to them," Smith explains.

Reading is important because it is the foundation of everything. "One of the single most important things that we can do is to help children read to ensure their future," says Wimmer. "Once they learn to read, they can read to learn."

Desert Media Company's new program "Read Today" has a simple but lofty goal.

"Read today is an initiative to leverage the reach and the resources of Deseret Media Companies, so that we can move the literacy needle in Utah," explains Wimmer.

The program will work in two ways. First, by supporting groups currently making a difference in Utah, and second, by focusing the message on parents "to get them understanding the importance of reading at home to their kids long before they go to school," says Wimmer.

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