Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dueling Utah Immigration Commentaries

There's some news on immigration:  Utah passed a law consistent with its principles in the "Utah Compact" with distinguished signatories, including Utah's major churches. The signers were looking for a more compassionate treatment of immigrants to Utah, and the final version watered down the originally tough enforcement provisions.

Now it appears the bill's passage is largely an effort to get the attention from Washington lawmakers who have been absent in their duty to defend our borders. There are passionate voices on all sides of this issue, obviously, but the facts are not easily mastered. Simplistic notions like, "Well, they've broken the law when they entered this country in the first place," just don't satisfy when stacked against the rigid enforcement provisions that separate and divide affected families.

No one would doubt the reasons for inaction on both sides of the aisle at the federal level have everything to do with politics -- no one wants to offend a growing segment of the voting public.

Bob Bennett
Yesterday, former Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett hailed it with an op-ed piece appearing in the Deseret News. His premise was that it's so nice that other people outside Utah are saying such nice things about Utah and saluting the wonderful new immigration law.

While Bennett may feel complimented, there are many more considerations -- like for instance, the bill may be unconstitutional on its face, a fact that legislative legal counsel pointed out to the lawmakers in the process of debating and passing the bill.

Nevertheless, heedless of the warnings from legal counsel, the legislature passed the bill and the signing was witnessed by the original signers of the Utah Compact. Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was front and center to witness the governor's signature, along with the Catholic Church's local counterpart.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Today, however, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) appeared to throw a wet blanket over the whole thing. The Salt Lake Tribune published an opposing view pointing out the flawed premise upon which the new law was constructed -- it requires a waiver by the federal government of its Constitutional duties to secure the borders in order to be implemented. Oops. That was the part you didn't read in any of the press coverage. It was current Senator Lee who stepped up the microphone at UVU today and made the careful legal clarification.

Senator Curt Bramble (R-Provo), one of the bill's architects, said, “I think the bill sends a clear message to Washington that states are tired of Washington’s failure to act, and I think the precursor to many, if not most states, taking it upon themselves to address immigration if the federal government does not.”

Lee understands the states’ frustration and confirmed he is “calling on the Obama administration to enforce the law on the southern border.”

Said Lee: “I don’t believe there is any possibility that the state is going to get any kind of a waiver. I know of no process in federal law that suggests that such a waiver could even be granted, nor do I know of any political inclination in Washington to let that happen.”

So where does that leave Utah and other states? Right back where the conversation began with the founders and their Constitution. The principle of dual federalism -- shared power between the federal and the state governments -- is still an open question in 2011.

No less an authoritative source than the Washington Post, however, reported the aftermath of the Utah bill is having a positive impact. The article reports, "Reform advocates are at work on versions of the Utah Compact in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Washington, Idaho and Oregon."

Don't be surprised if the question isn't settled during your lifetime, however. This struggle has been going on for a long time, and it is once again center stage over immigration and health care. I'll have more to say about that in my next post.

Shall we restrict the federal government to its enumerated powers, or continue to grant it much, much more than the founders ever contemplated?


  1. Brother Bennet is a dope. I was happy to vote him out at convention. The guy is so power hungry that he refuses to go away. I don't know what his motivation is these days, but I don't think it's to serve "the people".

  2. Like-minded people CAN and DO make a difference, and can become agents for change -- that's what Mike Lee's candidacy was all about and now he's having a huge impact on his peers as a freshman senator even on the Republican side. He will not yield on having a straight up or down vote on the BBA before he will even consider a vote to raise the debt ceiling. Now THAT's a transformative leader we can all get behind.