At the beginning of the 2005 Utah legislative season, Luz Robles and Joe Reyna co-authored an op-ed in the Deseret News. In the article they tell us:
"As we begin this new legislative session, Utah Hispanic leaders from both Republican and Democrat parties are united once again to lobby and fight for common legislation that will affect the Hispanic community. Rare are the occasions when Latinos from both parties put political differences aside in order to support common ideals and work for common goals."
The article is not too specific about what those common ideals and goals are, but we get a strong clue from their following comment:
"During the 2004 session, a sleeping giant, the Hispanic community, awoke and was forced to become active in the legislative process and take action against anti-immigrant groups."
Mr. Reyna must have found it difficult to use such a subdued term as "anti-immigrant groups."
This usage is quite different from how he described Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (UFIRE) during the battle over House Bill 109 in 2004 (a bill to restrict the use of Mexican Matricula Consular ID cards in Utah):
"The group, Utahns for Immigration Reform and enforcement [sic], led by Mr. Matt Throckmorton, have one objective in mind and one only -- to promote hatred against the Mexican people living in the state of Utah."
("Illegal Immigration and House Bill 109 Stir Up Controversy" - http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&
That's quite a statement.
It is both irresponsible and inflammatory.
Be that as it may, as a result of this awakening during the 2004 session, the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force was created. Luz Robles and Joe Reyna were co-chairs of this task force at the time they wrote the op-ed in 2005.
It appears that one purpose of the task force was to monitor proposed illegal immigration enforcement bills in the legislature and to work against those they saw as counter to the interests of the Hispanic community.
The distinction between legal and illegal immigrants seems to have escaped the co-chairs as they characterized those working to end illegal immigration as "anti-immigrant groups" and not as "anti-illegal immigration" groups.
The Deseret News op-ed is available at:
("Utah Hispanics Talking Charge" - http://www.deseretnews.com/
Aside from being co-chairs of the task force during the 2005 legislative session, is there anything else, looking back from the present, that creates a common experience for the Democrat Luz Robles and the Republican Joe Reyna?
Indeed there is.
They both filled three-year terms as representatives of the Mexican community, geographically served by the Mexican consulate in Salt Lake City, on the Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME - Advisory Council/Board of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad).
The CCIME is an elected advisory board organized by the Mexican government that makes recommendations to the Mexican government about issues of concern to Mexicans living abroad - mostly in the U.S. Members meet as a body bi-annually to discuss and make recommendations to the Mexican government. The meetings are generally in Mexico.
Mr. Reyna served the Mexican government as a member of the CCIME during the years 2003 - 2005.
Ms. Robles served the Mexican government as a member from 2006 - 2008.
For roughly half the time of her service on the Mexican advisory board, Luz Robles was also employed by the state of Utah as Governor Huntsman's appointed Director of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs.
She was elected to the CCIME to hold the position that was previously held by Joe Reyna.
For more information about this Mexican government advisory board, see the article about Luz Robles (currently a Utah State Senator) at ufire.net (click on "Luz Robles Report") in which the CCIME is described in detail. Luz Robles' role in the CCIME is the primary focus of that article.
Jumping back in time just a bit to late 2002, when Joe Reyna was first elected to the CCIME, we see that the Deseret News (12/6/02) thought the event to be significant enough to do an article about it, which is available at:
("Reyna in position to help Utahns, Mexicans relate" - http://www.deseretnews.com/
The Deseret News tells us that Reyna already had a list of "hot topics" to deal with and that:
"Most urgent among them: Granting legal-resident status to Mexican nationals working in the United States. "
How did the Mexican consulate view Mr. Reyna's new position?:
"We want him to be a voice for the community here," Salt Lake Mexican consular Martin Torres said of Reyna."
The Mexican consulate in Salt Lake City wanted Joe Reyna to be a voice for the Mexican community?
It appears to be so.
That's an interesting view to have for a foreign consulate.
At the very time that Joe Reyna was writing an op-ed with Luz Robles about working against those working for immigration enforcement and was serving as the co-chair, with Luz Robles, of the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force, a group dedicated to influencing the state legislature, Mr. Reyna was also working with the Mexican government as part of the CCIME.
While going through some of the records of the CCIME recently, I came across an interesting discussion about a plan to try to influence the LDS Church by either getting them to share a political consensus or as part of a larger concern about shaping public opinion.
The discussion took place during the fourth bi-annual meeting of the CCIME, which was held in early December 2004. The meeting took place in San Luis Potosí in Mexico.
Utah's Joe Reyna was there and was part of the discussion.
But who is Joe Reyna?
A bit more information about him will allow us to see that he is a person of influence and accomplishment who would be listened to in other venues.
Mr. Reyna is a prominent Utah businessman and Republican political activist.
For example, among the positions he has served or worked at are the following:
- Regional President for Zions Bank
- Deputy Mayor of Ogden, Utah
- Chairman of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- Chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly
- Board Member of the Westminster College Board of Trustees
- Advisor/Counselor in Mexican President Vicente Fox’s Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME).
Less than two months before the 2005 op-ed with Luz Robles appeared, in December 2004, Mr. Reyna attended a CCIME conference in Mexico.
As part of the bi-annual CCIME conferences, the council breaks into various commissions and considers recommendations by topical focus. For example, the commission of which Joe Reyna was a part focused on economic and business issues. Sometimes they also met by geographic region.
At one such geographic regional session, in December of 2004, Joe Reyna met with other advisors of the southwest region.
The relevant record which documents the discussion is at:
("IV Reunión Ordinaria del Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior - Minuta de la Reunión de la Región Sur Oeste" - http://www.ime.gob.mx/images/
The quotations from the CCIME meeting below are from the minutes of the meeting. The minutes appear to be notes about what was said and not actual transcribed statements of the participants. Some of the context is thus missing, which leads to some confusion when trying to follow the conversation and to attach precise meanings to the notes. Quotes are, therefore, of notes which occur in the document and not of verbatim statements.
A variety of issues were brought up in the meeting. Among them was how to use the media to influence U.S. public opinion about, for instance, the "militarization" of the border and how that created hardships. The assumption seems to have been that an improved perception would work against certain border policies that were instituted after 9/11. Amid this discussion, the name of Jeffrey Jones was brought up. Jeffrey Jones, at that time, was a Mexican senator representing the state of Chihuahua and was also president of the Mexican senate's Border Affairs Commission.
He would be a natural ally for any plans the group might have regarding the border.
Joe Reyna proposed an additional avenue to aid in the generating of a more positive public opinion in the U.S. - get the Catholic church and other religious leaders on board:
"It would be good to dedicate time to getting the support of religious leaders - such as the council of Catholic bishops - to help make a positive change in public opinion."
After some more points are raised by other advisors, Henrique Valdovinos brings in the idea of seeking political consensus before involving the media:
"I think that the most important [thing] right now is to bring political consensus to the situation, it is not the moment to bring the media, the important [thing] is to get people who want to participate."
After some points are made by Isabel Garcia from Tucson, Reyna brings up the Mormon church. It is not clear, in what follows, if the discussion has turned to seeking political consensus or is still focused on creating a more positive public image. It is also not clear if Mr. Reyna is referring to the leaders of the LDS Church, as being in favor of Proposition 200 (which had recently passed in Arizona), or the general membership, or both:
"The Mormons are in favor of Arizona's Proposition 200. Undersecretary Geronimo Gutierrez was there in Salt Lake City and met with leaders of the Mormon Church."
After more discussion, Reyna adds:
"Jeffrey Jones is a Mormon, from Chihuahua. Why not invite him to speak with the Mormons?"
Another advisor, Henrique Valdovinos from New Mexico, who appears to have been in charge of the meeting, adds this:
"In late December, he [Jeffrey Jones] will be in New Mexico, there he has his ranch. Maybe when he is in New Mexico we could meet with him. Let Guillermina and I make contact, and say when he could meet with the group."
The notes for Mr. Valdovinos also contain the following:
"Point of Agreement: "Make talks with leaders of the Mormon church to open doors for the humanitarian immigrant agenda."
"Request the cooperation and participation of Secretary Luis Ernest Derbez and Undersecretary Geronimo Gutierrez."
It is not clear if this final note was meant as a call to have Secretary Derbez and Undersecretary Gutierrez talk with the LDS Church or was meant to solicit from them other types of help. Mr. Derbez, at the time, was Mexico's Secretary or Minister of Foreign Affairs (equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State).
Opening doors for a "humanitarian immigrant agenda" is an interesting goal.
What exactly did this group of CCIME advisors have in mind by this term?
It could include a variety of proposals.
In the context of this discussion, it possibly relates only to the border issues being discussed. But, it also could refer to a broader immigration agenda.
But, what does it imply for how the group sees the LDS and other churches?
One advisor (Isabel Garcia, from Tucson), during the discussion, says this:
"...They [the churches] are as unions already having ready-made constituencies, then it is very important to establish communication with them."
If this perception was shared by the other advisors, then it implies seeing the churches as speaking for their memberships. Public statements by the churches, therefore, would be seen as representing or influencing the memberships and would create a perception in the larger public of broad support and would thereby create pressure to change border policies - regardless of whether or not the membership of any particular church shared the viewpoint of its leadership.
Without more information, it is difficult to say exactly what this group of CCIME advisors had in mind in the plan to approach the Mormon Church. But, clearly, they saw in the Mormon Church a potential ally.
In the case of Joe Reyna, this discussion shows that he was meeting in Mexico as a representative of the Mexican government (on the CCIME) and discussing enlisting a prominent LDS Mexican official as part of an effort to get the LDS Church to help open doors for a "humanitarian immigrant agenda" - less than two months before writing about working against proposed state immigration enforcement laws as a co-chair with Luz Robles of the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force
It is unknown at this point if the group's plans were actually carried out or what the end results were - that is, if they were successful in having Mr. Jones or the other Mexican officials talk with LDS leaders and what the outcome of such a meeting might have been.
As a side note, it is interesting to note that Mr. Jeffrey Jones is a current member of the National Presidential Advisory Board of Utah Valley University:
So, is that all Mr. Reyna was up to at the end of 2004 and in 2005?
In January of 2005, Jon Huntsman, Jr. began his first term as Utah's governor.
Within a few months, with his feet barely wet as governor, Mr. Huntsman traveled to Mexico.
During the trip, according to the Salt Lake Tribune (7/11/05):
"Huntsman also plans to discuss immigration, but it's not clear with whom or at what meeting, said a governor's spokeswoman."
("Huntsman aims to bring Utah, Mexico a bit closer" - http://www.sltrib.com/ci_
The article tells us that Huntsman was only traveling with a handful of people. Among them was Joe Reyna, who, according to the article, was paying for his own trip.
Later in the article:
"He [Reyna] said he helped organize Huntsman's Mexico trip because he wants to see leaders start a dialogue about trade and immigration. He also hopes the trip encourages Fox to visit Utah."
Recall that, in July of 2005, that Reyna was an advisor on the Mexican government's CCIME (which was mentioned in the Salt Lake Tribune article), had worked on a plan to try and influence the LDS Church during a recent CCIME conference in Mexico, and was currently, or had been recently, a co-chair of a group whose goal was to influence the state legislature on immigration issues,
And Mr. Reyna was now helping to plan Governor Huntsman's Mexico trip and trying to advance immigration discussions between Huntsman and the Mexican government?
Mr. Reyna was, indeed, busy.
Was Governor Huntsman aware of Mr. Reyna's immigration interests and relationship to the Mexican government prior to the trip and, if so, did he care?
Or did he and Mr. Reyna already share a similar set of outlooks and goals for immigration issues?
Another interesting side note - it was in July of 2005, the same month that Joe Reyna accompanied Governor Huntsman to Mexico, that Luz Robles, Joe Reyna's co-chair of the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force earlier in the year, was chosen to be the Interim-Director of the new Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs. She would go on to appointed its first director in November.
So, how did that trip to Mexico go?
In terms of working on immigration issues, it seems to have been a great success.
According to the Deseret News ("Huntsman tells Fox of plan to push immigration issue" - http://www.deseretnews.com/
"Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. sweetened the deal for his Utah-Mexico "Alliance for Prosperity" Wednesday, telling Mexican President Vicente Fox and other officials here that he'll take on the immigration issue with the help of America's Western governors."
The governor also spoke with Mexico's Undersecretary for North America, Geronimo Gutierrez, and had this to say:
"The governor said Mexico's undersecretary for North America, Geronimo Gutierrez, told him the country is not looking for blanket amnesty but a "workable solution going forward to better identify those who are crossing the border" for employment."
The Deseret News adds this from Mr. Gutierrez:
"Migration is a great opportunity for both countries, if we're able to establish a mechanism that allows for legal, safe borders and secure migration. That will help us take advantage of the fact that we have complementary labor markets," Gutierrez said."
Let's recap. Governor Huntsman goes off to Mexico with Joe Reyna only months after taking office. While in Mexico he planned to talk about immigration and seems to have had some very interesting discussions on the issue. These discussions appear to have led him to the position of wanting to pursue the issue with the Western Governors Association.
How did the governor come to focus so heavily on immigration? From the same article:
"That just came out of discussions with senior officials," Huntsman said of his decision to tackle the issue. "I think there's a serious need to reinvigorate the whole discussion on immigration. It's falling victim to politics here in Mexico and maybe to some level of indifference at home. I think it's one of the most critical issues of our time and requires a good public policy solution."
"Immigration, he said, came up repeatedly throughout his four-day visit. "I don't think we had a conversation where it didn't come up in some form or fashion." Creel, who belongs to the same political party as Fox, talked of little else during the hour and a half he spent with Huntsman over breakfast Wednesday."
So, Governor Huntsman goes to Mexico, has a number of little chats and just happens to come out swinging for policies Mexico likes?
This is a problem.
The odd thing about these particular comments from Governor Huntsman is this: if he is accurately describing how he came to his immigration focus, then that position seems to have been arrived at in an environment where he was heavily lobbied by foreign officials seeking to bring him to their views while the governor was in their nation.
Shouldn't the policies pursued by an American governor of be arrived at through high level discussions about what is best for the United States and with the national interest of the United States foremost in mind - not the interests of a foreign nation while visiting that nation's president and meeting high level officials of the foreign government?
Governor Huntsman's immigration views seem to rely on a basic assumption that is certainly challengeable: that the national interest of the United States is best served by pursuing an immigration agenda set in Mexico.
Either Governor Huntsman went to Mexico already with a policy agenda in mind, that he was seeking to fine-tune through his discussions with Mexican leaders, or he went there rather naively and was easily influenced by those promoting the Mexican position.
The choice for us is to decide if Governor Hunstman is either easily influenced or he was working in the shadows prior to his trip, regarding immigration matters, and used the trip as a way to begin a push for a not-quite-amnesty for illegal aliens in the U.S.
A few short months later, Governor Huntsman went on to convince the Western Governors Association to allow him to draft an immigration proposal. According to the Deseret News:
"Just last week, Huntsman persuaded members of the Western Governors' Association to let him draft a proposed stand on immigration for the organization, the first time they've agreed to tackle the issue."
What might his proposal include?:
"He [Huntsman] hasn't said what position he'll propose the governors' association take, but his draft will offer solutions to protecting the nation's border with Mexico, some type of guest-worker program, and ways to improve the process by which immigrants can become citizens."
("Put brakes on Mexican job seekers, Utahns say" - http://www.deseretnews.com/
The rather strange thing about this article about Huntsman's position is that it is also reporting on a poll of Utahns who overwhelmingly think that it should be more difficult to bring Mexican workers to Utah.
In an interesting moment of candor, Joe Reyna as quoted in the same article, said this:
"There's no way to focus on a 'Berlin Wall' on the border to keep them out if the demand is still high for cheap labor," Reyna said, praising the governor for getting involved in the issue. "Even though it's not his responsibility, he's taking the initiative."
A Berlin Wall?
The Berlin Wall was meant to prevent people from escaping a communist tyranny.
Mr. Reyna's extreme rhetoric here, as with his earlier description of the UFIRE group, is out of place and offensive.
Reyna's view of Mexican labor coming to the U.S. also seems to echo Subsecretary Gutierrez' view of Mexico as having a complementary labor market with the U.S. - only Reyna is more specific about what "complementary" seems to mean: cheap labor.
Praising the virtues of cheap labor without examining the larger picture is, to say the least, a simplistic approach to economics and the impact such a proposal would have on a host nation. It also downplays both the responsibility of Mexico to care for its own citizens and the effects the outflow of Mexicans has on families and communities in Mexico.
In another interesting side note:
Jumping to August of 2009, we find Mexico opening a consulate in Boise, Idaho.
In what seems just a bit strange, it was Zions Bank that hosted a "grand opening party" for the new consulate.
Although the article linked below does not specifically state that Joe Reyna attended, it does quote him in his position as a regional president of Zions Bank:
"Zions Bank hosted the party, and the company's regional president Joe Reyna says the consulate will not only provide documentation services for Mexicans and Idahoans, but will help the business community as well."
("Idaho's Mexican consulate opens in Boise" - http://www.ktvb.com/news/
A U.S. bank hosting an opening party for the consulate of another nation in, of all places, Idaho?
Aside from that interesting fact, what does Mr. Reyna mean by "documentation services"?
It is not specified in this very brief article.
But, it does seem reasonable to assume that Matricula Consular ID cards would be included. The acceptance of such cards was the focus of the 2004 controversy in the Utah legislature mentioned earlier. Indeed, the use of such cards has been controversial for a number of years throughout the country.
Some final thoughts;
The purpose of this article has been to demonstrate certain linkages of one individual, Mr. Reyna, in his efforts to promote a particular view of how to address the illegal immigration issue.
Mr. Reyna's representing Mexico, through his service to the CCIME, and the discussion to seek LDS Church help in advancing the perspective of the southwest region's advisors ought to concern us.
Mr. Reyna's work on the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force at a time he was a member of the CCIME ought to concern us. An individual who represents a foreign power while seeking to influence the laws of Utah, especially in an area of great concern to the CCIME and Mexican government, is very concerning.
Additionally, the fact that Mr. Reyna was close enough to Governor Huntsman to accompany him on a trip to Mexico where immigration issues were discussed, while he was a member of the CCIME, ought to also concern us.
Finally, Governor Huntsman's actions regarding immigration ought to concern us as well.
We have far too many leaders who know the public opposes amnesties in any form and want increased enforcement of our very reasonable immigration laws and yet work against those same very reasonable positions.
The public-at-large has a better intuitive grasp of these issues and how they should be addressed than many of our leaders.
It is time for our leadership to get on board and to work for the benefit of our national interest.