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All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. - Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman and Philosopher
And so it is, in the final weeks of this Utah Legislature, we are able to watch in real time the fine art of compromise as it is practiced by parties with strong and disparate points of view on the subject of unlawful immigration.
The end result is still anybody's guess, as is the question of whether any possible result will have actual real-life impact, especially in the short-term. Nearly all of the proposals with a chance to become law have potential legal flaws that could require they be put on a shelf until a court battle plays out.
One proposal, a Senate resolution sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, formally recognizes that reality and suggests a two-year moratorium on immigration legislation, in hopes the federal government will get its act together and address the problem on an a national scale.
There is virtually no hope of comprehensive immigration legislation emerging soon in Washington, but more significantly, the fire in Utah's statehouse is now officially too hot to douse. Too much time, energy and passion have been invested in this issue for the House and Senate to suddenly rise up and say, "Never mind."
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In fact, as the end game plays out, the rhetoric is likely to ratchet up. Those who have so far successfully pushed an enforcement-based approach - specifically Reps. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, and Chris Herrod, R-Provo - have indicated they are more than reluctant to subordinate their bills to any over-arching measure, specifically the one floated by Sen. Curt Bramble, also a Provo Republican.
But Sen. Bramble has worked diligently, quietly and it appears quite artfully, to craft something that may appease those who prefer a hard-line approach, and those who would embrace the tenets of the Utah Compact, which calls for "compassion" in the formulation of new laws. (Bramble in fact has named his bill after the Compact).
Sen. Bramble has a history of looking at this issue through a pragmatic lens. He was the original sponsor of the law years ago that created the driver's privilege card, a favorite rallying point among those who feel the state is coddling those who wantonly flout the rule of law to come here.
Sen. Bramble's chances of bringing pragmatism to the stage in the final act of this drama may very well hinge on how well he can weave together the key components of two particular measures which appear to epitomize the respective ideologies of the two opposing sides - the Sandstrom enforcement bill, and the measure sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, to create a guest-worker program.
Both measures sailed through the House of Representatives, and both enjoy strong support in the polls. That may seem counterintuitive because of the rhetoric attached to each bill. For example, those who favor a hard line approach see Sandstrom's bill, if nothing else, as a deterrent to future illegal immigration, while they criticize Wright's bill as providing an incentive to cross the border illegally.
The fact that they both enjoy public support suggests they are not polar opposites, and may find some sliver of a common magnetic field - making the possibility of some kind of compromise all the more real. A subplot in the drama is the tension that is developing between the Senate, where the Bramble bill, and the measure by Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, have arisen, and the House, where the Sandstrom and Herrod factions held sway.
If an omnibus bill can be forged in that furnace, it will take a lot of parliamentary wrangling, particularly behind the scenes. That may or may not be helped along by Gov. Gary Herbert's encouraging words about the Bramble bill, which he said is "moving in the right direction."
Whatever the final version of immigration-related legislation looks like, it will be the defining statement of the 2011 Utah Legislature. At this point, it is thankfully not likely to be a statement like that made in Arizona - one of frustration and intolerance. It is also not likely to be a statement that purely channels the precepts of the Utah Compact.
It will likely be something in between, and each side will be able to point to success in pressing their positions. If it happens that way, it will also be a statement about the ability of these lawmakers to successfully embrace and exploit the art of compromise.