Friday, April 15, 2011

Selling the Utah Sell-out on Immigration (The Utah Compact and HB116):

Former Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Deseret News about the Utah Compact (see "Utah Compact provides starting point for Congress," 4/10/11 -

Mr. Leavitt, as the article points out, is a member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board.  Considering the consistent stance of the Deseret News regarding accommodating illegal immigrants and the views of the newspaper on other related immigration issues, it is probably no accident that Governor Leavitt's article supports the same views.  Indeed, the Deseret News' coverage of issues related to illegal immigration has the appearance more of a public relations campaign being spun as news than as an objective approach to such issues.  It is possible to view Mr. Leavitt's article, therefore, in the same light - as part of a PR campaign and not as the objective analysis of a neutral observer.  Of course, it is an op-ed piece.  It is supposed to be an opinion.  However, opinions based on experience, learning, thought, reasoning and analysis of the interrelated elements that form the complex of immigration issues are one thing.  Spinning a point of view to achieve the goals of the money-interests or other interests lurking in the background and wanting a cover of high-minded ethical concepts to hide behind is something else. 

The interesting thing to ponder, therefore, is the relationship of the Utah Compact to the HB116.  The Utah Compact ( was proposed as a set of principles to guide the immigration debate in Utah.  Although that document refers to immigrants without distinction as to the legal status of the immigrant, it is important to realize that the debate is primarily about normalizing the presence of illegal immigrants - as is clear when one examines the Utah Compact carefully.   The principles outlined, of course, represent the consensus of those who crafted it.  But does the consensus of this group, no matter how respected the leaders, truly represent a public consensus, or one that represents the totality of issues, or the direction such issues should take when turned into actual policy regarding illegal immigration?  Mr. Leavitt seems to suggest that they do.  He presents the relationship as one in which the policy initiatives are the natural outcome of applying the principles to illegal immigration and other immigration issues.  They may not be perfect, but they can guide policy decisions to an "imperfect but best achievable solution," according to Mr. Leavitt. 

But if any central principle was overlooked, willfully screened out, or somehow never made it into those outlined by the Utah Compact group, then we would, as a result, be left with a deficient policy mix that potentially could have disastrous consequences when policies derived from it are implemented in society.  Additionally, having created a reductionist matrix of principles to follow in creating immigration policy to primarily address issues of illegal immigration in Utah, the natural tendency would be to keep out elements that pointed to deficiencies in the Utah Compact.   Mr. Leavitt's wish to make the Utah Compact a national-model to guide us into national policies (which would be, no doubt, congruent with ones he already supports) is to compound the error. 

Concerning the question of innovation: Mr. Leavitt tells us that the recent Utah immigration bills, without naming any (but we may assume that he primarily means HB116) represent a "breakthrough" in public-policy that Congress should emulate.  But what is the real nature of the breakthrough?  The provisions of HB116 sound suspiciously like components of other "comprehensive immigration reform" proposals that have been rejected by Congress.  They have been rejected because of pressure by the public - that same public which seems to have been mysteriously pushed aside by those who created the Utah Compact.  So, what kind of breakthrough was it in reality? 

The breakthrough was not in the so-called innovative immigration proposals of HB116 - because they are basically rehashed proposals from the past decade for addressing the illegal-immigration question.  The breakthrough was in the unique public relations use of the Utah Compact to garner support for an immigration bill, such as HB116, and in the mix of pressures applied to the Utah legislature.  Even so, it gave the powers pushing the bill what they needed to send state officials scurrying about the nation trying the sell the Utah approach as a national model.

We must ask, a national model of what exactly?

The answer is:  a national amnesty with a few penalties thrown in to create the illusion that it is not an amnesty. 

Mr. Leavitt carefully frames the outcome of these new wonderful innovative policies, which are not new or innovative, so that the underlying basis of what he and his crowd are really after is not too obvious and yet appeals to us in a general way. 

Mr. Leavitt tells us, for example, that the immigration reform stalemate in Congress is "becoming an obstacle to long-term economic resurgence."  This is an important enough point for Mr. Leavitt to expand upon later in the essay when he tells us that a "[l]ack of a sustainable immigration policy is one of the obstacles standing in the way of our nation's economic resurgence."  This is a very general formula being presented:  a sustainable immigration policy leads to economic resurgence.  But what does a "sustainable" immigration policy consist of?  Perhaps the warmed-over and previously rejected provisions of HB116 are what Mr. Leavitt had in mind.  It is not clear and, in any event, any concept of immigration beneficial to those making the money from immigration (through low wages, etc.) could be coded under the term of "sustainable" immigration.  The concept of "sustainable" can include anything, even massively expanding our already historically high levels of legal-immigration or an eventual call to diminish the importance of our borders as impediments to our "economic resurgence."   Cheap-labor, therefore, seems to be one key underlying goal of Mr. Leavitt's views.

We all want an economic resurgence.  But what is needed is a resurgence based on solid economic principles rather than policies crafted to benefit the narrow interests of the few.  Legal immigration, when it forms part of those solid economic principles, can certainly add to our economic resurgence.  The views promoted by Mr. Leavitt, however, will more logically lead  to economic turmoil for the average Utahan and American as well as for those who have already migrated to the U.S. legally and are not yet citizens.   

If an alliance of economic forces seeks "gold" for themselves in HB116 and in even more "gold" for themselves by making it a model for the nation, it seems only fair that we examine how those same proposals would impact Utah's citizens and the future of the United States.  This larger discussion was muted by the PR campaign that took the Utah Compact and used it as a cover to push through a defective law.  In fact, this larger debate is precisely what the money-interests, who are driving immigration policies to benefit themselves, do not want.  Mr. Leavitt's "economic resurgence" seems to be built on a foundation of working the system to benefit the few while passing on the true costs of immigration to society. 

Mr. Leavitt's essay has many dimensions that could be criticized from the standpoint of what is truly in the best interests of the nation as a whole.  It is clearly reductionist in its portrayal of the illegal immigration issue and simplistic in its underlying thesis.  It is, however, a good piece of PR.  But it is a horrible foundation for good public policy.  No doubt, any critical reader will find much to be concerned about in Mr. Leavitt's essay.  Indeed, the critical comments that were posted on the Deseret News website in response to Mr. Leavitt's article show more wisdom and understanding on this issue than does Mr. Leavitt.

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