How the path of the Utah immigration debate turned a corner

Noorani said the red state’s compact also surfaces in “liberal circles as a ray of hope that there is a constructive approach from a conservative perspective.”

He noted his Washington, D.C.-based group “really started with the Utah Compact” as its model as the forum aims to engage faith, law enforcement and business leaders in an approach “that has come to be known as Bibles, badges and business for immigration reform.”

Noorani added that the compact even has affected debate in Congress.

What the compact did there, he said, “was lay the foundation for a different way to have a conversation. Once you had that foundation, it was a lot easier to get to a policy debate.”

Noorani does not foresee immigration reform clearing Congress anytime soon because of “hyper-polarization” on the issue. He is in Utah to talk to leaders and send a message to politicians that reform is still sought by many in the state — and the need is urgent.

He said reform may come as more people get to know immigrant neighbors “and see they are good people.”

He added that ongoing litigation over President Barack Obama’s orders not to deport many adults and the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign could put more focus on immigration reform.

“The 2016 election will remind Republicans that the world is a changing,” he said, “and they have a real chance to take credit for fixing the system.”

Utah leaders have a range of other views on the compact. Anti-illegal-immigration activists see it as a sort of disaster for their cause, while Latino activists credit it for cooling the surging hate they had seen.

Ron Mortensen, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and an activist against illegal immigration, on Wednesday called the compact “a business- driven effort to help businesses benefit from illegal immigration and avoid their responsibilities for hiring illegal immigrants.”

He said it has “taken away the criminality of illegal immigration,” and helped block efforts here to stop it.

On the other hand, Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, credited the compact for helping to calm a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment.

“We were in the middle of a hurricane when it was signed,” he said. “The Utah Compact certainly has been a big part of cooling a lot of heads around the state and country.”

Between 2008 and 2012, Yapias said, he and others seemed to live at the Legislature when it was in session to fight anti-immigration efforts.



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How the path of the Utah immigration debate turned a corner
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