Park City residents seek immigration reform
Ryan Summerlin August 16, 2013
An immigration forum was held Tuesday in both English and Spanish at the St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church Parish Hall. Residents and local elected officials came together in the hopes of reaching out to Republican Rep. Rob Bishop (Utah-1) for "fair and humane" immigration reform.
According to a statement read by Maria Santillan of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Salt Lake City, Bishop John Wester said that the business and tourism industry of Utah depends upon the unappreciated Latino community.
"These are the people who cut our lawns, serve in the restaurants, and help make tourism in the beautiful city of Park City feel like home, but all too often they are cheated and abused by citizens who wield the heavy threat of deportation," said Wester.
Park City Mayor Dana Williams also sent a statement read aloud by Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson. Williams noted that nearly 25 percent of the population in Park City is Latino and that they are an "active, vibrant and essential element of this town."
Summit County Council member David Ure suggested that undocumented citizens search for other avenues to become legal such as seeking permanent resident cards or work visas instead of citizenship, because "that’s what Republicans are scared of."
In a survey taken in the last several months, less than 25 percent of the 11-13 million undocumented citizens currently in the U.S. want legalization rather than citizenship anyway, he said.
"America doesn’t want to see families get split apart," said Ure, "but it does want to see people be held accountable for their actions."
The forum was hosted by several pro-immigration groups: Communities United, the Salt Lake Dream Team, and the Enriching Utah Coalition.
On the subject of border security, Karen McCreary of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said that it has been given a big enough budget and that the Border Wall has been proven a "failed and costly enterprise."
McCreary went on to state that more than 38,000 Border Patrol agents man the borders, which means there is one agent for every 270 feet of border land. She also referred to statistical data stating that between 2004 and 2012, the Border Patrol budget was raised by almost 100 percent, which is four times the rate of growth of NASA’s budget and 10 times the National Institute of Health’s.
Ure argued that should undocumented residents receive citizenship, they will have to start paying taxes. This will create an influx of money that the country desperately needs, according to Ure.
After remarks from elected officials, attendees got their turn to share their thoughts. Santillan took notes to send to Bishop as residents talked and asked questions.
For many most of whom identified themselves as undocumented citizens their reasons for coming into the country were mostly the same. Several older residents spoke about coming to create a better life for their children while other younger residents sought a better life for themselves.
"We have longstanding proof that the vast majority of undocumented people living in the United States want nothing more than to abide by our laws and provide better lives for themselves and for their children," said Wester.
One Park City woman migrated to the United States 23 years ago and said that the only law she had ever broken in this country was entering it illegally. Another man came in 1992 when he was just 17 years old and said he works to pay taxes and wants to be able to receive his return. A young girl, the child of two undocumented citizens, said she was grateful to her parents for bringing her to this country and giving her the opportunity to receive a first-class education.
The common thread among questions asked of Bishop was that he realize that immigration reform is not just an economic issue but a moral issue as well.
Sister Mary Ann Pajakowski of Sisters of the Holy Cross at St. Mary’s urged attendees to speak up and take action, to call, write or meet with their elected officials.
"It’s scary even for me to write to our legislators," said Pajakowski, "but don’t be afraid to do that; people need to hear from us."