Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Who Paid For Luz Robles' CCIME Mexico Trips?

Who paid for Luz Robles' CCIME Mexico trips?

Recall that before Luz Robles became a Utah state senator, she filled a three-year term as an advisor on the Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME).

This was 2006 - 2008.

During much of that time (January 2006 - September 2007), she also served Utah as the Director of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs (OEA) - a position she was appointed to by Governor Jon Huntsman.

During her time as the Director of the OEA, Luz Robles made three trips to Mexico City to participate as an advisor on the CCIME.  The President of Mexico participated at all three of these meetings.  President Fox was at the first two and President Calderon was at the third.

Serving Mexico on the CCIME and holding a Utah government position were in conflict.  This conflict issue was also raised regarding an Illinois state senator seeking a CCIME position in a 2005 Chicago Tribune article:

The conflict issue, in the case of Luz Robles, was considered in a more extensive report about Luz Robles which is available at:

It was also considered briefly in a recent blog post about Luz Robles:

Service on the CCIME is non-paid.  Luz Robles was not, therefore, paid a salary for her time and service to Mexico on the CCIME.

But were her travel expenses paid by Mexico?

The issue of reimbursement for travel expenses for CCIME advisors was also briefly raised in the Chicago Tribune article:

"But the advisory council is part of the official flowchart of the Institute for Mexicans Abroad. And the Mexican government reimburses advisory council members for two annual meetings in Mexico City and two other meetings at various U.S. locations.

Mexico solicits private sponsorship for most of the reimbursement but government funds cover part of the expenses, Gomez said."

This article appeared prior to Luz Robles beginning her term on the CCIME.  But it raises an interesting issue.

Was Mexico paying the travel expenses of those on the CCIME advisory board?

Even if part of the funds came from outside sources, as suggested by this article, reimbursing travel expenses stands out as a type of perk.  If Luz Robles was indeed reimbursed by Mexico for travel, then that perk was going to a Utah public official in order to permit her to serve the nation of Mexico at a time she was employed by the state of Utah.  

This information comes from a third-party source (Chicago Tribune), is there more direct evidence that Luz Robles received travel subsidies to Mexico City to serve the nation of Mexico?

Indeed there is.

Three brief notes about being reimbursed for travel appear in issues of Informe - CCIME (a newsletter of the CCIME) during 2008. They are reproduced below.

From March 2008:

"The IME hereby urgently requests counselors who have not done it, to confirm your attendance at the XI Meeting of the CCIME; and report the total cost of your plane ticket to the email:

Failure to do so before April 8, 2008, you will be subject to space availability."

("Por este medio el IME solicita urgentemente a los consejeros que no lo han hecho, confirmar su asistencia a la XI Reunión del CCIME; así como informar sobre el costo total de su boleto de avión al correo electrónico:

De no hacerlo antes del 8 de abril de 2008, quedarán sujetos a disponibilidad de espacio.")

Available at:

From September 2008:

"In preparation for the XII Ordinary Meeting of the CCIME to be held next 9 to 12 November, we will be very grateful to you:

1. To confirm your participation by email before Oct. 20

2. To buy your ticket to the Mexico City as soon as possible. In your consulate inform them about the maximum authorized reimbursements."

En preparación de la XII Reunión Ordinaria del CCIME a realizarse del 9 al 12 de noviembre próximo, mucho les agradeceremos:

1. Confirmar su participación al correo electrónico antes del 20 de octubre

2. Comprar su boleto de avión a la Ciudad de México lo más pronto posible. En su Consulado les informarán sobre los importes máximos de reembolsos autorizados.")

Available at:

From October 2008:

"As for the XII Ordinary Meeting CCIME, we hope you have already purchased your plane ticket bound for Mexico City, on the understanding that upon your return you will be reimbursed according to the amount you reported to your respective consulate."

("En cuanto a la XII Reunión Ordinaria del CCIME, esperamos que hayan comprado ya su boleto de avión con destino a la Ciudad de México, en el entendido de que a su regreso les será reembolsado de acuerdo a la cantidad que les informó su respectivo Consulado.")

Available at:

It appears, therefore, that Luz Robles was likely reimbursed for her travel to Mexico City to serve the Mexican government at a time in which she served as an appointed official of the Utah state government.

Such reimbursements appear to be the practice for members of the CCIME.

Whether the money did or did not come exclusively from the Mexican government (part of it may have come from solicited funds), the money appears to have been handled through some accountability process administered through the Mexican consulate system.

Of course, it is possible that Luz Robles paid for her own travel to and from Mexico City and to any other CCIME meetings she may have attended.  Even though this would have been a significant cost to her, it remains a possibility.

So, I will leave it an open question - with the evidence thus far pointing towards Mexico as being the most likely source of much of Luz Robles' travel expenses to and from Mexico or other locations for CCIME meetings.

If she would care to confirm my conclusion, contradict it, or to clarify this issue, I would be happy to post her reply on this blog.  

It is a significant ethical issue.

The voters of her current senate district deserve to know about Luz Robles' service to Mexico on the CCIME and whether or not Mexico paid the bulk of her travel costs to and from the meetings - especially those she attended while Director of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Serving Two Nations a Conflict for Luz Robles?

An interesting article appeared in the Chicago Tribune in September of 2005 that examines the appropriateness of an elected state senator (of Illinois) seeking a simultaneous position as an elected representative of the Mexican government on an advisory board representing Mexicans living in the United States.

The article, "Cicero lawmaker's hat in Mexico race,"  is available at:

The article raises the issue of a conflict of interest - an issue applicable to the case of Luz Robles.

Ms. Robles was seeking, at the same time as Illinois state Senator Martin Sandoval (the subject of the article), a position on the Consejo Consultivo del Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (CCIME).

The issue is actually more important in the case of Luz Robles because she went on to win her election and serve for three years on the CCIME (2006-2008), whereas Sandoval was not elected. 

Regarding the CCIME itself, the article states:

"...As president, he [Fox] formed an Institute for Mexicans Abroad to coordinate all Mexican Cabinet agencies that serve immigrants in the United States.

As part of the institute, Fox also created an advisory council of 115 U.S.-based representatives to float policy suggestions to the Mexican government."

The CCIME, therefore, is an advisory board made up of Mexicans (and Mexican-Americans) who are elected by geographic region in the United States.  The group meets twice each year as a body to work on recommendations to the Mexican government on issues of importance to Mexicans living abroad - primarily in the United States.  How far the advisors drift from that innocuous sounding goal is an issue for another time. 

For more background on this board and Luz Robles' role on it, see the "Luz Robles Report" available at at:

One key issue raised in the Chicago Tribune article that applies to Senator Luz Robles, therefore, is the conflict of interest issue.

You may recall, Luz Robles, prior to her taking office as an elected state senator in Utah, held an appointed position in the Utah state government as Director of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs.

She held this position from November 2005 to September 2007.   For most of that time, she also served on the CCIME (for the period of January 2006 - September 2007). 

In the Illinois debate on this issue, the article tells us:

"Sandoval would be the first elected official in the U.S. to serve on the advisory council. That raises the peculiar prospect of the Cicero Democrat offering policy advice in an official capacity to Mexican Cabinet members while creating laws in Illinois.

The possibility has some observers praising his vision while others blast his judgment, calling the potential moonlighting arrangement a conflict of interest."

Indeed, Mr. Stanley Renshon is quoted as follows in the article:

 "The idea that somebody can hold two responsible positions in two governments at the same time is a psychological and political absurdity," said Renshon, who is scheduled to testify before Congress this fall about the dangers of dual citizenship. "It's worse than a conflict of interest. It's a conflict of community responsibility."

That incompatibility, noted by Mr. Renshon, is the same incompatibility that would have applied to Luz Robles holding her position as Director of the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs while serving the Mexican government on the CCIME. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is the UCIM Required by Law to Recommend the Repeal of HB116?

Is the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration (UCIM) required to recommend the repeal of HB116?

HB116 supporters will, of course, say it does not.

But let's examine the law a little more closely to see if the law requires it.

Utah Code 63G-13-202 mandates, among other things, that the UCIM develop an immigration plan for the state and make recommendations for implementing such a plan.  From the law:

"(1)(c) develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state plan to address:

      (i) immigration and the use of migrant workers in the state..."

The law further states:

     "(d)  make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature as to proposed legislation to implement the state plan described in Subsection (1)(c):"

One of the functions of the commission is, therefore, to make recommendations to facilitate the implementation of a state immigration plan. 

The law further specifies, in subsection (i) of (d) that such recommendations be:

"consistent with the respective constitutional powers, rights, and responsibilities of the United States and of the state..."

The recommendations for laws to put into place the state plan, therefore, should be consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the United States and Utah that are constitutional. 

If HB116 is to form part of the state immigration plan, then it seems that the law mandates that the commission recommend that its unconstitutional provisions either be brought into line with the Constitution or that it be scrapped altogether. 

By extension, any state law which contains unconstitutional elements regarding immigration would need to be altered or abandoned if it is to form part of the state immigration plan. 

I am not an attorney, so I may be perhaps interpreting the law in an unwarranted fashion, but I do think it bears considering and paying closer attention to. 

With this in mind, the law that governs the commission also includes a provision to advise the governor and legislature regarding proposed immigration legislation.  Subsections (e)  and (e)(i) read:

"(e) advise the governor and the Legislature on proposed legislation related to immigration:"

      (i) for the purpose of encouraging a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state response to issues related to immigration;"

The language of section (c) is so close to the language of section (e)(i) that is seems that the provision to advise the governor and others about proposed immigration laws is meant to imply that the advice should measure proposed immigration laws against the "comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state plan" called for in section (c). 

Section (c) reads:

"(c) develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state plan..."

Section (e)(i) reads:

"(i) for the purpose of encouraging a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state response to issues related to immigration"

When these two phrases are placed back in the context of the law and the logic of this law is examined, it seems that a case can be made that the commission is obligated to recommend that HB116 be either altered to make it constitutional or scrapped.

A portion of Utah Code 63G-13-202 is reproduced below:

     63G-13-202.   General powers and duties of the commission.

    (1) The commission shall:     (a) conduct a thorough review of the economic, legal, cultural, and educational impact of illegal immigration on the state and its political subdivisions;
     (b) conduct a thorough examination of Utah and federal laws relating to immigration, migration, and guest worker programs;
     (c) develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state plan to address:
     (i) immigration and the use of migrant workers in the state; and
     (ii) integration of immigrants;
     (d) make recommendations to the governor and the Legislature as to proposed legislation to implement the state plan described in Subsection (1)(c):
     (i) consistent with the respective constitutional powers, rights, and responsibilities of the United States and of the state; and
     (ii) to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the state;
     (e) advise the governor and the Legislature on proposed legislation related to immigration:
     (i) for the purpose of encouraging a comprehensive, coordinated, and sustainable state response to issues related to immigration; and
     (ii) upon request of:
     (A) the governor;
     (B) the president of the Senate;
     (C) the speaker of the House of Representatives;
     (D) the minority leader of the Senate; or
     (E) the minority leader of the House of Representatives; and
     (f) comply with Part 3, Migrant Worker Visa Pilot Project.

The entire law can be accessed at:

Conflict of Interest Problem on the Utah Commission on Immigration & Migration

Below is an e-mail I sent to most of the state senators and representatives.  The e-mail also included a copy of a letter I had sent to Lt. Governor Bell and the e-mail response from his office (which are also below). 

The issue raised is the presence of two immigration attorneys from the same law firm on the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration (UCIM). 

This has the appearance of a conflict of interest. 

This is especially so when Mr. Kuck's call for pro-illegal immigration advocacy on the part of immigration attorneys is considered. 

The information below contains information that should be cause for one or both attorneys to be asked to leave the commission:


Dear Representative:

I am writing to voice my concern about the Utah Commission on Immigration & Migration.

My personal view is that this commission should be eliminated in the next legislative session.

It appears that the commission was conceived of and has become a voice, with a few exceptions, for a single perspective on state involvement in immigration - that of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Ron Mortensen has written a very helpful article on this issue, which is available at:

According to Mr. Mortensen:

"A review of the Commission’s membership reveals just how effectively it has been stacked in favor of the Salt Lake Chamber’s position on illegal immigration."

I firmly believe that the commission is ill-conceived, unnecessary, and will serve as a mechanism to control public policy on this issue.

Even so, my principle concern in this e-mail is the clear conflict of interest of having two immigration attorneys, especially from the same law firm, on the commission. 

I outline my concerns below in a letter (which was also sent as an e-mail) to Lt. Governor Bell in July.  The e-mail response from his office is also reproduced below. 

At the very least, I would ask that you find a way to remove one or both of these attorneys from the commission.

I am not criticizing any particular act on their part and this should not be seen as an attack on their character in any way.   

My concern is with the public perception of having them both on the commission and the potential conflict of interest that presents.

The public deserves to have confidence that special interests are not the driving force in setting immigration policy.  

Best regards,

Darrell Robbins


Darrell Robbins
P.O. Box 58923
Salt Lake City, UT  84158-0923

The Honorable Gregory S. Bell
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
P.O. Box 142325
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2325

July 17, 2012

Dear Lieutenant Governor Bell:

I am writing to express my concern about two members of the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration.

I believe there are two problems with having Ms. Barbara Melendez and Mr. Timothy Wheelwright serve on the commission.

The first is that both have recently moved from their respective law firms to that of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC.  Mr. Charles H. Kuck is the head of this company. 

This means that a single immigration law firm has two employees serving on the same commission. 

In terms of the commission holding and examining a diversity of views about immigration in Utah, this fact seems to narrow the range of opinions while giving a stronger voice to a particular perspective - that of immigration attorneys.

I do not wish to imply any type of unacceptable action on the part of Ms. Melendez or Mr. Wheelwright, but having immigration attorneys serve on the commission brings me to the second problem: the potential conflict of interest.

Immigration attorneys have a vested financial interest in the outcome of state immigration policy and how state policy might impact federal immigration law.   

The presence of immigration attorneys, therefore, seems to be out of place on such a commission.  Their expertise can be valuable to the commission, but should more properly take the form of providing information upon request about issues related to understanding federal visa programs, etc. 

The possible conflict of interest can perhaps be seen more clearly by considering briefly how Mr. Charles H. Kuck, for whom Ms. Melendez and Mr. Wheelwright ultimately work, approaches the role of immigration attorneys in the domain of public policy.

Mr. Kuck is the Managing Partner at Kuck Immigration Partners - which is a national immigration law firm.  He is a former National President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  In early 2009, Mr. Kuck sent out an urgent message to AILA members which included the following:

"As you are undoubtedly aware, the immigration debate in the new Congress is breaking out at every turn; demanding our re-commitment to advocacy. We all need to be actively engaged."  [Emphasis added]

Mr. Kuck's view is that immigration lawyers should be advocates - and active ones.

His motive becomes quite clear further along in his urgent message:

"Our practices, our livelihood and our country's future depend on it! I appreciate your diligence and all your efforts to ensure our voice is heard and that those who oppose immigration at every turn, those who fear immigrants, and those who simply would close the doors to America and hang out a shingle that says “closed for business” do not and cannot win the day."  [Emphasis added]

When Mr. Kuck so openly appeals to the preservation of the law practices and livelihood of immigration lawyers, we are entitled to consider whether or not those concerns are not the driving force behind his particular views on immigration.  In other words, is he promoting the interests of immigration attorneys above the national interest?

Mr. Kuck definitely practices what he preaches. 
For example, he was a co-host (as was Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, among others) of the recent Southeast Summit on Immigration held in Atlanta, GA. 

In addition, at the most recent AILA meeting, Mr. Kuck participated on a panel entitled, "Protecting Our Clients: How to Combat Anti-Immigrant Legislation." 

The interesting thing about this panel is that it also featured Timothy Wheelwright and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff - both of whom sit on the commission.

I am greatly concerned that Mr. Wheelwright, like his employer, sees his role as an immigration attorney as one of advocacy. 

To appear in a panel discussion on "Protecting Our Clients: How to Combat Anti-Immigrant Legislation" at the national conference of the AILA is a giant red flag.

Ms. Melendez also raises concerns because she has worked as legal counsel for the Mexican Consulate. 

According to a 2009 article from Utah Business:

"She [Melendez]...originally developed international expertise through serving as counsel for the Mexican consulate and the honorary Brazilian consulate in Utah. She gained knowledge of immigration law to service those clients, and then began handling related issues, such as transferring employees between divisions of multinational companies located in different countries."

A profile of Ms. Melendez, available at the website of her former employer, Kirton McConkie, tells us that Ms. Melendez served as legal counsel to the consulate from 2003 to the "present."  I do not know when this particular listing was posted, but it seems valid to assume that Ms. Melendez served the consulate as legal counsel for at least several years.  

I would not wish to imply that Ms. Melendez is not capable of separating her interests in serving the American people from her legal work for a foreign nation, but it does create a potential perception problem for the public.  The interests of Mexico are clearly directed towards a certain set of immigration policies and those policies may or may not be congruent with what is best for the United States.  In terms of perception, it might be better for Ms. Melendez to not be on the commission. 

I believe that the public needs to be able to look at the commission and to not walk away thinking that it is merely a tool of special interests. 

When Mr. Kuck, the employer of both Ms. Melendez and Mr. Wheelwright, publicly calls for immigration attorneys to be advocates, will Ms. Melendez and Mr. Wheelwright heed the call of their employer and use their positions to advocate for a certain immigration stance?

Keeping Mr. Wheelwright and Ms. Melendez on the commission invites suspicion from the public, i.e., that special interests are the driving force behind the commission and its decisions. 

I appreciate your kind consideration of my concerns.

Best regards,

Sources for the information outlined above:

1.  Press release about Ms. Melendez and Mr. Wheelwright moving to Kuck Immigration Partners LLC:

2.  Mr. Charles H. Kuck as head of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC and former National President of the AILA:

3.  Mr. Kuck's 2009 urgent message to the AILA:

4.  Mr. Kuck and Attorney General Shurtleff as co-hosts, with others, of Southeast Summit on Immigration:

5.  AILA download/cd for sale of "How to Combat Anti-Immigrant Legislation" and AILA program listing:

6.  Ms. Melendez worked for the Mexican consulate:

7.  Ms. Melendez' profile at Kirton McConkie listing work for Mexican Consulate (see "Experience" section):


Eric Ellis
Jul 18

to me
Mr. Robbins,
Your comments, thoughts and concerns regarding the individuals who make up the Commission on Immigration and Migration are much appreciated. Creating a commission with a partisan slant to deal with any issue, and especially immigration would likely produce some devastating legislative proposals regardless of which side it leaned--left or right.
Fortunately, with the insight of Lieutenant Governor Bell, the commissioners for this commission were selected for their expertise, education, and experiences from both sides of the immigration issue. Regardless of their position on immigration, these individuals were also selected for their ability to think rationally, and collectively as part of a balanced group and together have the ability to generate sound proposals for future legislation designed to deal with both legal and illegal immigration. These meetings are open to the public, and I encourage your to attend regularly if this is something you would like to see in action. By attending you will quickly recognize that the group contains a great mix of people all working towards smart solutions to this particular policy arena. 
I hope to see you at the next meeting August 13th at noon in the Capitol Board Room. I also hope this response resolved some of your concerns regarding the body of the commission.
Eric Ellis
Advisor to Lt. Governor Bell
State of Utah
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