In the past few months, The Park Record has run a number of articles on Utah Senate Bill 81, which attempts to provide a state response to immigration issues. What perhaps was not clear is that SB 81 has passed, is due to go into effect next summer, and debate now is seemingly too late. I believe this is very much a national issue and one that warrants reopened discussion on the federal level.
As an initial matter, it is important to recognize the progress that has been made on the immigration issue in recent years. Immigration and customs officials now work closely with local law-enforcement agencies to identify and deport illegal immigrants with criminal histories. National security has improved dramatically with increases in personnel and the use of the new technology. We have more than doubled the number of border patrol agents. We have seen an increase in sanctions against employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and we have intensified efforts to prosecute workers who use counterfeit documents to enter this country.
Recognizing this progress, sensible immigration solutions must find a fair and just way of bringing the 10 to 12 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S. into a legal system of employment. Under such a system, these workers would be required to pay all appropriate taxes and abide by all of our laws.
Many argue that, in this financial climate, we should preserve jobs here for U.S. citizens, misunderstanding the economics of the situation. To suggest that all illegal immigrants now living in the United States should simply be deported would amount to the loss of millions of jobs overseas, and would result in, by some estimates, over $600 billion lost in economic output. We must acknowledge the contributions of immigrants and the need for their labor if we can have a fair and balanced immigration reform discussion.
Beyond the economic impact, the mass deportation of all undocumented workers is quite simply not the right thing to do. Immigrants have long played an important role in building a strong America, and their contributions can be seen everywhere, every day. Even in a slowing economy, in many areas of the country, and indeed, in Park City, one can find many Help Wanted signs and immigrants are stepping up to fill these jobs. In addition, currently over 38,000 non-U.S. citizens serve in our military.
A state-by-state solution to immigration is not the answer. SB 81’s attempt to solve immigration difficulties in a piecemeal manner only gets in the way of a broader solution. This is a national issue not limited to the boundaries of a specific state. Congress and the president need to find a solution so that individual states are not forced to make short-sighted decisions that prove harmful to their economies.
Until, and even after, the federal government comes to comprehensive immigration solutions, we as a society need to do a better job than we are currently doing. Stories of workplace abuses against immigrant families, detainees in federal lockups dying without adequate medical care, harassment and refusal to pay wages fairly earned are rampant and horrifying. Further, the backlash against immigrants living here legally, whether such backlash is found in the workplace, on the streets, or against children trying to get an education, suggests that the country has forgotten the very principles for which it stands.
Several weeks ago, Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together ("MATT") unveiled an advertising campaign calling on the new president and Congress to quit pointing fingers and find a way to solve our nation’s immigration policy. While composed of Mexicans and Americans, MATT seeks comprehensive immigration policy for all immigrants as this issue reaches far beyond Mexico. MATT is committed to working with leading business and civic organizations to find solutions to critical immigration issues. In addition, MATT seeks to encourage Mexicans and Americans to come together to bridge the gaps of understanding and living so that we may truly prosper together. I invite anyone interested to visit MATT.org to learn more about the organization.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.