Why our approaches on illegal immigration, “gay rights” differ


All people have human dignity

Recently, I was asked why I manage to muster so much compassion for illegal immigrants but not “gays.” Most people who read this blog know Sutherland Institute’s stand on a conservative approach to illegal immigration andUtah’s HB 116 – and my defense of Sutherland’s position. Likewise, most people who know us know our stance on “gay rights.”

Holding me to this comparison based solely on the idea that compassion (or the lack thereof) drives both of those policy positions is naïve. In fact, out of the 40,298 words we’ve written on illegal immigration we’ve used the word compassion two times – hardly a centerpiece of our conservative argument.

In March 2009, during a speech before the Cache County Republican Party at its Lincoln Day Dinner, I actually drew the contrast between illegal immigration and “gay rights” as conservative public policies. I said, Read more

Political irony: the similarities of opposing political extremes


Want to know what the “gay-rights” movement and the enforcement-only immigration crowd have in common?  Then read on.

Photo credit: AJ Alfieri-Crispin

A number of news stories in recent weeks have highlighted ironic positions taken by groups across the political spectrum on various issues. I will highlight some of these stories here to illustrate what I call “do as I say but not as I do” politics.

The intolerant preachers of “tolerance”

On June 2, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll asking Americans whether they would be “more likely” or “less likely” to vote for a presidential candidate who is Mormon or whether the candidate’s affiliation with Mormonism “wouldn’t matter” to them. Poll participants were told to disregard the current candidates running for president and to express their general feelings about supporting a candidate who has the “trait” of being Mormon. Read more

Rotten to the core: Georgia’s enforcement-only policy


Those who crafted HB 116 did so with their eyes wide open to the realities of the complex immigration issue. Yes, the federal government needs to fix its terribly flawed immigration policy. Yes, illegal immigrants living in Utah broke the law. No, Utah cannot deport them. No, the federal government will not deport the vast majority of them. Yes, illegal immigrants work jobs that Utahns won’t. Yes, Utah employers try to hire Utahns. No, the vast majority of Utahns won’t work those jobs.

News out of Georgia (well, it’s not really news because everyone knew it would happen) is that the state, which just passed an enforcement-only bill, is losing millions of dollars from crops rotting in the fields where illegal immigrants used to work. Now state officials are scrambling to save Georgia’s “number one economic engine.” American citizens may very well lose their livelihoods. Read more

New video on HB 116


So what exactly does HB 116 do? Watch this video for a brief overview of Utah’s guest worker bill and see why it is a step in the right direction.


The Truth About HB 116: FAQ


Critics of HB 116 have tried their best to dissect the new law and uncover its flaws with the intent to have it repealed.

In an effort to clear the air, here are a few answers to questions we often hear:

Does HB 116 violate the U.S. constitution?

No. HB 116 does not change or affect the legal status of any undocumented immigrant. Hence, it does not create new federal immigration policy.

HB 116 focuses on immigrants already living, working and raising their families in Utah. HB 116 is a perfect example of a sovereign state exercising its right to ensure public safety, protect freedoms and promote its economic prosperity.

HB 116 is consti­tutional as a legal basis for Utah to protect its citizens against unaccountability or lawlessness. It creates a functional mechanism for all undocumented immigrants in Utah to become accountable.

What does HB 116 do to help with identity theft?

HB 116 will prevent future identity theft because each immigrant will have a work permit and will not have any need to steal an identity. HB 116 also contains provisions that permit financial restitution to victims of identity theft.

This is part of the genius of HB 116: It eliminates the need for stolen IDs, it prioritizes hunting down the real criminals, it holds all undocumented immigrants accountable to society, and it provides opportunities for financial restitution paid for by the undocumented immigrant community. Read more

Want to fix illegal immigration? Fix ourselves first

During Utah’s immigration debate this year, some people argued that tightening controls on America’s southern border and strictly enforcing immigration laws in Utah would solve our problems associated with illegal immigration. In a fascinating article in the newest edition of the Claremont Review of Books, Angelo M. Codevilla makes a strong counterargument that attempting to control the border is “an illusory surrogate for upholding the rule of law and good citizenship.”

Photo credit: Tomas Castelazo

Codevilla asserts that in order to truly fix illegal immigration we first need to fix ourselves – by taking citizenship more seriously, dismantling the entitlement mentality of the welfare state, reviving the rule of law in our modern administrative state, and eliminating America’s drug culture. In other words, we are as responsible for our immigration problems as anyone else, and controlling the border and strictly enforcing immigration laws are not a panacea for those problems.

You can read an excerpt of Mr. Codevilla’s article below.

Why do so many Americans demand further militarization of the Mexican border when such militarization cannot protect us from terrorism or criminals, does nothing to stop the flow of drugs, turns good labor-seekers into bad imitations of immigrants, and turns a friendly neighboring state into an unfriendly one? So-called border security is attractive because it lets Americans imagine that someone other than ourselves is responsible for several of the country’s biggest problems, and that the U.S. government can deal with them in a value-free, politically neutral manner. Read more

Guest commentary: the next steps for immigration reform

At the same time President Obama was giving his speech about immigration in El Paso, Texas, I was sitting in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups while he issued a temporary restraining order on the controversial Utah law HB 497, the Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act, written by Representative Stephen Sandstrom. I am filled with mixed feelings about what transpired yesterday on both fronts. I realize that when talking about immigration reform there are no easy answers, so I don’t envy anyone.

Ellis Island

After spending almost every waking moment of the past year working on creating a strategy both politically and legally to force Congress into working positively on comprehensive immigration reform, I think I can reasonably say I understand what the costs of both winning and losing this battle means.

To frame my concerns, I would like to preface it with my beliefs. First off, this is not an “us versus them” issue. Most Americans simply fail to realize that “we” are “them.” Illegal immigration is not about criminality – it is about economics, sometimes compassion, it is about America being responsible for our own actions and our ruinous trade policies, it is about a nation of immigrants, and it is about not just patching failed immigration policy but actually fixing it. We can build the biggest wall in the world, but what does it mean if our economy collapses in the meantime? People have watched their jobs go to China, wages have remained stagnant for decades, and in a down-turned economy they want someone to blame. It isn’t the immigrant’s fault any more than it is your own fault. This problem lives and breathes solely in Washington D.C Read more

Immigration debate: what ‘round ’em up’ actually looks like

Throughout Utah’s immigration debate, some voices have called for a strict enforcement-only policy regarding illegal immigrants. What those voices haven’t explained is what the policy would actually look like if implemented. How exactly do you “round ’em up” and “ship ’em out”? How do you ensure that American citizens aren’t mistakenly forced to leave their home country in this process?

Photo credit: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY

Well, even if those advocating for enforcement-only measures are a little reticent about actually describing what their policy would lead to, we have a very good idea of what that looks like because it actually happened. During the Great Depression, the U.S. government employed several tactics to force hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans down to Mexico, even though most of them were either here working legally or U.S. citizens. Often called “the repatriation,” the effort included several ugly and illegal tactics inconsistent with American law and values.

A 2006 USA Today article tells the story. A few excerpts:

“They came in with guns and told us to get out,” recalls Piña, 81, a retired railroad worker in Bakersfield, Calif., of the 1931 raid. “They didn’t let us take anything,” not even a trunk that held birth certificates proving that he and his five siblings were U.S.-born citizens.

The family was thrown into a jail for 10 days before being sent by train to Mexico. Piña says he spent 16 years of “pure hell” there before acquiring papers of his Utah birth and returning to the USA. Read more

Mero: Don’t Let Partisanship Derail Utah Solution for Undocumented Immigration

The following is an op-ed produced by Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero and submitted to various newspapers in Utah. This is the piece, unedited, in its entirety.

Please forgive me a few personal ruminations. For nearly three years, through my employer, Sutherland Institute, I have been working on immigration policy as it pertains to Utah. This issue is perhaps the single most complex and vexing one I’ve ever dealt with in my 25 years of public policy. And it also is the most gratifying for a big-idea guy.

Since May 2010, just one month after Arizona passed its controversial SB 1070, I have worked with Democratic State Senator Luz Robles to craft a Utah solution addressing undocumented immigrants in Utah and how to mitigate negative impacts while encouraging people of good will to rise to the surface of society. Most everyone in my policy world understands that federal legal immigration reforms, by definition, can solve any problem with illegal immigration. But Sutherland is a state-based think tank and, as such, we focus on Utah. So our perspective and policy ideas naturally center on how Utah should respond to this issue in its own backyard until the federal government gets it act together. Read more