Neighbors irked by bosses who hire illegals
Tempers flared when more than 100 people gathered Thursday at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for a discussion on immigration. Citizens upset with business owners in Park City who hire illegal aliens peppered panelists with questions.
"I have seen neighborhoods absolutely destroyed because of multiple families living in one house," said Snyderville Basin resident Merlin Rudd, recalling communities near where he lived in Southern California.
Rudd confronted panelist Scott Palmer during the immigration forum sponsored by the Park City Project for Deeper Understanding after Palmer stated recently that without immigrant labor Park City "would shrivel up and blow away."
"I see the young people accepting jobs working at the golf course but I don’t see them putting up cement," responded Palmer, who is president of the Park City Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Palmer fielded questions Thursday with panelists Bob Bussen, of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds, assistant U.S. District Attorney Dustin Pead, Theresa Martinez, associate dean of sociology at the University of Utah and Park City School District counselor Hugo Meza.
"This is really where the debate hits the fan," Pead said. "If you take the illegal labor out of the workforce, be prepared to pay more."
Martinez encouraged audience members to protest U.S. immigration laws she described as "tyrannous."
"You get to a point where you shouldn’t be listening to particular laws," Martinez said. "They were in need of jobs. They needed to feed their families. They needed to make their lives better."
But by entering the United States illegally, immigrants "must continue to break the law," Pead countered.
"It’s the people who prey on the illegal population that is my focus," he said while conceding the federal government is "really struggling with how do we enforce the law as it relates to employment."
Advocates for immigrants living in Park City insist hotels and construction companies in the area hire illegal immigrants in droves.
"It seems to me the federal government has not provided you the resources to do your job," Parkite Mike Andrews told Pead during Thursday’s debate.
Meanwhile, much of the audience feedback at the forum opposed illegal immigration.
"What I’m not hearing is the costs for health care, schooling [and] public works," Parkite Helen Stanley said.
Western Summit County resident Conrad Taylor asked "If you want to live here, shouldn’t learning the language be important?"
"We shouldn’t be afraid of them not learning our language," Meza countered.
With Congress debating whether a wall should be built to keep illegal immigrants from sneaking into America from Mexico, Edmunds said he is against providing amnesty for those already living in the U.S. illegally.
"Local law enforcement is often put in a very precarious position," the sheriff said adding that deputies can’t enforce immigration laws. "We’re put in a very difficult situation where there is something that is against the law and we’re being asked to turn a blind eye to it."
Immigrants must respect concerns expressed during Thursday’s forum, Bussen said.
"The immigrant population could do more by reaching beyond the realm of their own comfort zones," he insisted. "I would like to see the immigrant community take a little more responsibility in addressing the issues we face."
A roundtable discussion on immigration is scheduled at 7 p.m. Oct. 5 at Park City Community Church at 4501 N. S.R. 224.
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