Forum in Basin to discuss immigration
Neighbors are invited to discuss Thursday with a diverse group of panelists whether tensions about illegal immigration are boiling over in Park City.
"We can bring to the surface what scares us about this and begin to talk about the issue, instead of what we have today, a nation divided, a lot of name calling and people trying to score political points," said Charles Robinson, rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Those invited to participate in the debate at 4595 North Silver Springs Drive include McPolin Elementary School counselor Hugo Meza, Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds, L. Scott Palmer, president of the Park City Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Father Bob Bussen of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
"If this turns out only to be people throwing statistics at each other, it would be a failure," Robinson said. "What we’re really interested in is people sharing their story and life experience."
The forum is the first event hosted by the Park City Area Project for Deeper Understanding, which formed last year "to get people together that wouldn’t normally be in conversations with each other because they’re on opposing sides of the issue," Robinson said.
"What’s scaring people about this?" Robinson asked. "You’ve probably got some concerns."
A walk through most hotels or construction sites in Park City confirms estimates that Latinos make up about 20 percent of the town. Many are living in the United States illegally, local immigration advocates say.
But organizers of the forum had initially disagreed about which "divisive issue" to take on first, Robinson said.
With Congress likely ready to balk at enacting immigration-reform measures until after the Nov. 7 election, a push currently in the Utah Legislature to do away with driving privilege cards and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants has fueled division between those who support amnesty for illegal immigrants and those ready to deport all undocumented people living in the U.S.
"The process for someone who is legitimately trying to become a citizen is inept and it needs to be streamlined and done right," said Palmer, who supports loosening regulations for those interested in becoming American citizens.
He says he experienced how long the process can take while adopting a 14-month-old girl from El Salvador about 22 years ago.
"There are people here who contribute and contribute greatly to our society and without them Park City would shrivel up and blow away," Palmer said.
But LDS Church leaders haven’t taken a position on immigration reform.
"They have no comment, it’s a civil matter and not a religious matter," Palmer said.
Members of the LDS Church aren’t questioned about their immigration status, he said.
"My guess is we’ve probably had that interaction (with illegal immigrants) and not known it," Palmer said. "Regardless of how we feel about immigration there is humanity and we’ve got to be good and kind to one another."
Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced plans this week to beef up the deportation of illegal immigrants in Utah.
"Utahns have long responded to the challenges of criminal aliens, but lacked the proper means to deal effectively with them," Hatch said in a Sept. 14 press release.
At Hatch’s request, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Utah will report directly to Department of Homeland Security officials in Washington, D.C., to obtain information about immigrants detained in the state.
"Everywhere I go in Utah, the No. 1 issue for my constituents is immigration enforcement," Hatch said in the press release.
The discussion is scheduled to begin at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
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