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SALT LAKE CITY -- An historic signing on immigration reform took place Thursday at the State Capitol courtyard.
Representatives from corporations and businesses, state and city governments, community organizations and faiths stepped forward to lend support to what's titled "The Utah Compact." They've been working for several months to draft a statement to influence the tone of the discussion on the immigration issue.
Government, community leaders sign Utah Compact
Tom Love, Utah businessman and head of Love Communications, led dozens of leaders in signing the document and called this an auspicious day in the state's history.
"We urge our elected leaders to utilize these guiding principles as they address the challenges associated with a broke national immigration system," he said.
Former Gov. Olene Walker has given her experience and insight to the project and is pleased with the broad-based group.
Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and countries, not between Utah and countries.
"People from all different walks of life have come together to say, 'We're concerned about this issue. We think that we need guidelines,'" Walker said. "It's a compact of guidelines and principles that we can agree on."
The group acknowledged that this is Veterans Day and the anniversary of the day in 1620 when the pilgrims -- both religious and secular -- signed The Mayflower Compact, an agreement which became the governing document of Plymouth Colony.
The Utah Compact's five principles begin with the idea of federal solutions to the problem.
"We urge Utah's congressional delegation and others to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our international borders," Walker said. "We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigration in Utah."
Bishop John Wester, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and head of the Catholic Bishops of the United States Immigration Committee, has been a long-time supporter of reform.
"I'm hoping that we can speak loudly and clearly that we do not want oppressive and Draconian legislation," he said. "We do not want our state to take the place of the federal government."
I'm hoping that we can speak loudly and clearly that we do not want oppressive and Draconian legislation. We do not want our state to take the place of the federal government.
–Bishop John C. Wester
Mark Willes, Deseret Media Corporation president and CEO, whose editorial on immigration has come forward as part of the Utah Compact, says he is encouraged by the participation.
The other four parts of the Compact include concerns for law enforcement agencies, families, the economy and our free society.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said, "Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code."
Bishop Wester spoke for championing policies that support families instead of separating them and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.
Lane Beattie, business and community leader at the Salt Lake Chamber, acknowledged the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers.
Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute said, "We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion."
"They're going to sign it because they care for Utah and they care about people," Willes said. "They want to make sure that whatever we do reflects the complexities of the problem and the very real human dimensions to the challenges that we have."
Will Utah Compact influence Legislature?
One political analyst believes this group will influence some.
"A lot of legislators will find it very persuasive because there are some incredibly impressive people and organizations represented by this compact," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.
"I've found that certain legislators, though, don't like any idea if its not theirs," Jowers said.
Still, he says the timing of the Utah Compact is perfect: post-election and allowing plenty of time to create other legislative options.
Support for the Utah Compact
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement in support of the Utah Compact Thursday, saying, "The Church regards the declaration of the Utah Compact as a responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform. It is consistent with important principles for which we stand."
To read the Church's full statement [CLICK HERE].
A number of conservatives, including former U.S. representative from Utah Jim Hansen, also gave their support and hope the legislature will consider it.
"I know how hard it is. I've spent my time in those seats, and I know how hard it is back in Washington; but if we don't do it, we're missing a really great opportunity," Hansen said.
Former U.S. senator from Utah Jake Garn said, "I hope that they will realize that it is a national problem and not just a state problem, and work hard to support those who believe we need to solve it on a national basis."
Shurtleff believes the compact could help defeat Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's proposed immigration bill.
"Republican legislators need to see that there is huge support in this state for doing something different than an enforcement-only bill," Shurtleff said.
The attorney general says legislation that just rounds up illegal immigrants and ships them out is not going to work. He also says any immigration legislation passed in Utah should be constitutional.
Sandstrom said of his legislation, "It's going to be ready right at the beginning of the session, and I don't see it slowing down at all. I think the people of Utah are behind this bill and they're demanding action."