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SALT LAKE CITY -- A law set to take effect in Arizona next week has rekindled a debate that affects every American and anyone who would become an American.
It has managed to divide our nation and our state into two general camps -- one which believes our borders are there to protect a way of life; another which believes there should be no hard borders for those who strive honestly for freedom and opportunity.
We think it's OK for people to break in and take jobs from Americans? And suppress wages? It's become a job-taking, wage-lowering tsunami.
–Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Ariz.
Because it is such an important issue, KSL has assigned a team of reporters and producers to focus in on the most critical elements of this story. This is the first piece in our 7-part series, "The Dream Divided."
A line drawn by posts and rails separates Mexico from the United States -- a fence dividing two nations. A debate over the meaning of this fence now divides the people of Utah. It also divides the dream.
Mexico today is the biggest source of immigrants to the United States -- immigrants who come legally and illegally, like those who sneak through the fence near Wendy Glenn's Arizona ranch.
"People traffic you're not going to stop," she says. "People are going to keep on coming as long as there's a reason to go north."
By all accounts, the biggest reason to go north is the dream of a job and all that it can provide.
"We think it's OK for people to break in and take jobs from Americans? And suppress wages? It's become a job-taking, wage-lowering tsunami," said Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce.
You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, can you? I mean, what are you going to do? Send all those people back?
Driven by that belief, Arizona lawmakers approved yet another state law to take effect next week that cracks down on illegal immigrants.
"Utah needs a law because every time Arizona has cracked down in immigration, there has been an increase of illegal aliens coming to the state of Utah," says Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem.
Sandstrom, who has been tutored by Arizona activists, is pushing a bill to criminalize undocumented status as a state felony and as a down payment toward forcing all of the nation's 12 million illegal immigrants to leave.
"They definitely should leave the United States because they're here illegally," he says.
But many disagree with this approach. "You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, can you? I mean, what are you going to do? Send all those people back?" says John Florez, former deputy assistant secretary of labor.
Florez was born in Salt Lake City to Mexican immigrant parents. He says the departure of 12 million people is not only impractical, it would ruin the economy.
There are kind of two realities on this issue and it's kind of created this divide where it's really difficult to talk to each other in common terms.
"All you hear are these sound bites, ‘We're gonna get tough, we're gonna get tough.' You pass laws, what happens? I mean we don't look at the impact, the unintended consequences of your actions," says Florez.
That debate merely scratches the surface of the divide over immigration, a divide that has devalued fact and elevated opinion, sometimes fueled by partial facts or perceptions only, on the economy, on taxes, on education and on crime.
"There has definitely been a lot of crime associated with illegal immigration," Sandstrom says.
Derek Monson is policy manager of the conservative Sutherland Institute. It conducted a study of immigrants and crime.
"The conclusions that can be drawn are they are doing the same things that we do in terms of forming families, in terms of committing crime or not committing crime after they're here," he says. "They are more or less like most of us citizens and we ought to then base our dialogues and our arguments on those realities."
Immigration is not a new issue in our nation of immigrants and it has always brought with it tensions, resentments and divisions.
"There are kind of two realities on this issue and it's kind of created this divide where it's really difficult to talk to each other in common terms," says Monson.
Each night this week, KSL will explore the many dimensions of "The Dream Divided."