Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Utah Compact's Bad Approach to Illegal Immigration:

The Utah Compact is an interesting collection of interrelated statements that, when examined closely, reveal a number of serious problems in its approach to illegal immigration.  One central problem is that the Compact serves more as a way to control and limit the debate about illegal immigration than as a way to "guide" it - in other words, open discussion is discouraged and reasonable avenues for finding solutions are cut off from consideration.  

Image courtesy of xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The restrictive set of propositions of the Compact also create an unwarranted reduction of the overall immigration picture and the myriad associated issues.  The Compact, therefore, poses a fundamental block to creating effective policy to address the totality of issues surrounding illegal immigration.

If the Compact cannot be trusted to provide guiding principles for an open discussion, then it should be rejected as a guiding instrument for policy - as it shuts off discussion instead of encouraging a free and open exchange of ideas in this area of critical public concern.

Below is a brief examination of the general principles and more specific statements of the Compact.  The Compact's statements are bolded and numbered.

Many of the Compact's assumptions are not overtly expressed, but are to be found lurking in the unexpressed premisses of its statements.  The wall the Compact constructs to keep out unwanted considerations also serves to protect its views from careful examination.  

The purpose of the discussion below is to outline, in a general way, some of the shortfalls of the Compact so that people interested in the critical issue of illegal immigration can decide if the Compact is or is not a good guide for making policy.  

At the time this article was posted, the official website of the Utah Compact, theutahcompact.com, was not functioning.  Because of this, the official text of the Utah Compact available at the Deseret News website was used for this analysis.  This is found at:


The Utah Compact official site has been restored and is currently available. 


The Utah Compact

1.  A declaration of five principles to guide Utah's immigration discussion

This statement of purpose declares to us that the goal of the Utah Compact is to "guide Utah's immigration discussion."

Does this use of "guide" mean to provide ground rules for conducting a conversation, i.e., rules that encourage open discussion and participation by all?

Or does it mean making sure the immigration conversation remains controlled and limited by its propositions?

If the latter, then issues and information not already organized by the Compact will be kept out of the discussion.

Does it also mean that the the propositions of the Utah Compact, once accepted, are no longer open to challenge on any basis?

As you read the Utah Compact's statements, keep in mind that they are meant to apply to immigration - or more specifically and clearly than the Compact writers stated it: illegal immigration.


2.  Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries — not Utah and other countries.

While most would accept that the federal government has the right to create immigration laws and the primary responsibility for ensuring that the integrity of those laws is upheld through enforcement, the right of the states to assist in the enforcement of immigration laws through appropriate and constitutional state action needs to be recognized and respected.

An extreme view on this issue leads to the rather strange legal argument that states should not be permitted to support, through state law, the federal immigration laws that were duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the President if such state action conflicts with the joint foreign policy objectives of the United States government, i.e., the executive branch, and a foreign power.  This is essentially the argument of the amicus curiae brief filed in the lawsuit against Utah's enforcement bill, HB 497, by the Mexican government.  The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay agree with the notion and have added their nations to Mexico's amicus curiae brief.  In other words, if the executive branch chooses to ignore enforcement in the furtherance of bi-national or even multinational policy goals, the states are duty bound to go along with the program regardless of the express wishes of Congress as embodied in actual federal law.  Such a view would essentially subordinate vast areas of domestic law and life to presidential foreign policy objectives.  Granting to the president such broad powers to bypass congress through such a foreign policy mechanism would create a serious threat to our constitutional order.

3.  We urge Utah's congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders.

Most Americans agree that greater protection of our national borders is needed and that such protection may entail different things.

But, what did the Utah Compact writers have in mind when they called for our congressional delegation to "strengthen federal laws"?

Did they have in mind better enforcement mechanisms?

Did they envision simplified immigration laws that dramatically increase the number of legal immigrants by making it easier to immigrate?

Do they wish to create much simpler and easier ways to significantly raise the number of "guest workers" in America?

Are they seeking a reliable labor flow into the United States in order to keep wages low enough to compete in the global economy?

A significant number of illegal immigrants did not enter the nation illegally, they merely overstayed their visas and remained.

Do the Utah Compact writers propose adequate ways to address this aspect of illegal immigration?

Do the writers of the Utah Compact wish to see enforcement prove itself to be effective before granting amnesty to illegal immigrants?

4.  We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

We all agree on the idea that policies should be reasonable.

But, do we agree on what reasonable means when addressing illegal immigration?

If this statement is referring to legal immigrants, then it seems silly to mention it.

If this statement refers to illegal immigrants, and it apparently does, then we are entitled to ask what it means to "adopt reasonable policies" addressing illegal immigrants in Utah, are we not?

This statement is so general as to be meaningless - unless its writers had something in mind that they thought should be intentionally not mentioned.

"Reasonable," in the minds of the Utah Compact writers, most likely means accomodating illegal aliens residing in Utah.


5.  We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement's professional judgment and discretion.

This seems to grant to law enforcement broad discretionary authority - perhaps too broad.

When applied to illegal immigration it implies that law enforcement, or more specifically local law enforcement, should not participate in any enforcement of immigration laws.

This is an unfortunate position to advocate.

Local law enforcement should be open to being tasked appropriately and constitutionally to assist in restoring integrity to our immigration laws.

6.  Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.

I think most would agree that local law enforcement should focus on criminal activity and not on civil violations of federal code.

But what is being left out here?

Someone crossing the border illegally has committed a crime.

Someone who illegally crosses the border after deportation has committed a more serious crime.

Why does the Utah Compact leave this out?

Many crimes are committed in conjunction with illegal immigration, in addition to illegal entry or overstaying a visa - does the Compact encourage us to downplay and ignore such crimes because they are committed in furtherance of maneuvering in society for illegal immigrants?

Some rather misleading analogies have been used by some pro-amnesty advocates and Utah Compact supporters regarding the law and illegal immigration.  Comparisons of illegal immigration to a traffic violation, for example, ignore the fact that laws are not built on arbitrary whims.  They are the result of our constitutional systems and are responsive to areas of critical concern.  Changing laws requires engaging those same systems - not in simply ignoring laws that one finds inconvenient.  Different areas of human activity that fall within the legal domain require different types of laws and responses for violations.  The appropriate endpoint for illegal entry into the U.S. or for overstaying a visa is to be required to leave the nation.  Focusing on the act of physically crossing the border as the only real offense is a willful distortion of the illegal immigration picture.  Traffic laws organize and respond to a different area of activity.  No one argues, for example, that traffic laws lack validity, should be done away with, are mere arbitrary restrictions on driving behavior, or are part of a "broken traffic system" that can only be fixed through "comprehensive traffic reform," when they challenge a ticket in court.  Pretending that our immigration laws are arbitrary, trivial, and designed to unfairly restrict people in other nations from freely migrating into the United States ignores the fact that immigration laws are meant to accomplish a variety of purposes that serve our interests as a nation, as a people, and as individuals.  Downplaying the law and trivializing it when addressing the illegal immigration issue is misguided and ignores the consequences that derive from ignoring the foundational principles that guide our immigration laws.

When someone enters the U.S. illegally or overstays a visa, we have no idea as to why they have done so.

This specific proposal removes local law enforcement from any responsibility or role in this important issue - except, perhaps, in those situations in which someone has become the victim of a serious crime.  

If other cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, are indicators of where this is headed, it is towards refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement in all but the most egregious of cases - to the detriment of public safety.

If the Compact were about open discussion, it would not prematurely push out exploring reasonable and constitutional avenues for local law enforcement to cooperate and coordinate with the federal government to restore integrity to our immigration laws.


7.  Strong families are the foundation of successful communities.

This is a good general statement that few would disagree with.

8.  We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families.

This is another example of a general statement that few would disagree with.

But remember, the Utah Compact is talking about illegal immigrants.

When we are told that we should oppose "unnecessarily" separating families - we are talking about illegal immigrant families.

What does "unnecessarily" mean?

What are the principles that underlie that term?

Does it argue against enforcement when somehow a family is involved?

Does it negate the idea that people are responsible for their actions in relation to our laws?

Does it ignore the fact that many illegal immigrants left families behind in order to come here?

Do the Utah Compact writers want an open discussion on this issue?

Or is this another example of an area where they want us to accept the immigration position they are proposing without thinking about it too much?

9.  We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

This is another general statement which few would disagree with.

Aside from the obvious emotional argument being used here, we have to point out again that the Utah Compact is proposing a view that refuses to distinguish between illegal and legal immigration.

We are also being manipulated.

Who can refuse to do what is best for children?

No one.

And the writers of the Utah Compact know it - so they chose to use children as a cover for their amnesty proposal.

What do we see when we examine the family proposals in the Utah Compact?

We see a model for state action regarding illegal immigration - a model calling for no action.

Can this model be examined, discussed, and considered in relation to the overall situation of illegal immigration in the United States?

Or do the Compact writers want to avoid such a discussion?

Can humane principles be derived for addressing these legitimate concerns raised by the Utah Compact within a strong-enforcement policy?


That is, if the Utah Compact actually wants an open discussion.

Should the family proposals be seen as a call to ignore enforcement of our immigration laws?


But they do need to be considered as part of an overall strategy for addressing the issue.


10.  Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity.

Another general statement that most would accept.

Applied to illegal immigration - what does it mean?

Does it mean that anyone in any part of the world who can make it to the United States falls within its application?

Some who advocate amnesty also advocate for open borders and no work restrictions.  Others who advocate amnesty also advocate for dramatic increases in legal immigration and guest workers.  Many who advocate for amnesty also work hard against any type of enforcement of immigration laws.

Is the Compact group willing to lay their cards on the table and have a conversation about how illegal immigration, legal immigration, and guest worker programs might impact the ability of American families to sustain themselves and move ahead economically?  Or do they want us to ignore the issue?

11.  We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers.

The Compact group is stating nothing here while making it sound like something.

Any group in the United States has an economic role as workers and taxpayers.

The issues here are whether that role is a net gain or loss for the economy and whether or not the net gain or loss warrants ignoring our immigration laws.

The Compact group clearly is promoting  the idea that it is a net gain and, therefore, an argument for amnesty.

But, this idea has been challenged by many and should not be considered a closed question.

The Compact presupposes a net economic benefit from illegal labor and is subtly closing off the issue from further examination.

Have they considered all aspects of that question?

For example, have they considered the economic impact of a father struggling to find a good job in construction after having been replaced by an illegal immigrant?

Even if we were to accept the Compact's underlying assumption about a net gain from illegal immigrant labor, is it justifiable to accept another implicit assumption of the Compact: that we should look the other way if illegal immigration is a net gain?

Are there other important considerations that are equally as significant as the economy in the illegal immigration debate?

Should the many illegal immigration issues be reduced to the economic question?

I personally believe that the economic case against illegal immigration and other programs designed to flood America with cheap labor, while benefiting the few, create enormous economic problems in both the short and long term.

If the Compact group has its way, however, we may never examine such questions - because it has been decided for us already.

Which is very strange when you think about it - as the Utah Compact is supposed to guide the discussion - not choke it off and exclude everything not congruent with its immigration model.

12.  Utah's immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

This is a very nice-sounding idea.

Again, notice that the word "immigration" here really means illegal immigration.

Does it still sound so nice when we make the following clarification:  "Utah's illegal immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state"?

Clarifying this concept jars the mind.

Are we now inviting illegal immigrants to Utah?

The Compact writers seem to suggest here that we can't have the state trying to help solve the problem of illegal immigration through enforcement because we will get criticized for it in other nations.

There is, however, no clear reason why this is some sort of sacred principle for guiding our immigration debate.

It's not on the same level, for instance, as the idea that "Strong families are the foundation of successful communities."

It is just accepted by the Compact writers - driven as many of them are by business concerns.

But, what are they really saying?

Are they not implying that Utah, if it wants a good international business reputation, must look the other way on illegal immigration?

Are they not also saying that, if we have state measures against illegal immigration, we will impact negatively our prospects for international business?

Is this not a subtle form of manipulation encoded in the Utah Compact?  The idea seems to be: ignore illegal immigration or Utah business will suffer and by extension, the economy of Utah.  If you are for the Utah Compact's amnesty call, you are for economic prosperity.  If you are opposed to the Utah Compact's amnesty call, you are destroying the Utah economy.

Shouldn't this issue be openly debated and not just have its validity assumed in the Utah Compact?

Again, the Utah Compact, while pretending to "guide" the discussion actually wants to control it by placing policy planks into its structure and calling them principles.


13.  Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah.

This statement is so obvious that its lack of relevance to the discussion is easy to overlook until we, again, clarify what is really being said by replacing "immigrants" with "illegal immigrants."

The sentence now reads:  "Illegal immgrants are integrated into communities across Utah."

If we examine it in this light, there is some truth to it.  But it also hides a lot of differing circumstances.

For example, is a twenty-year old illegal immigrant, who arrived a few months ago, really integrated into a Utah community?

Should we accept previously deported criminals and passively wait for them to commit another crime - a crime that may take the life of someone?  

Does being integrated into a Utah community exempt illegal immigrants from immigration laws?

The Compact seems to be suggesting that it does.  

14.  We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion.

Does our "unique culture, history, and spirit of inclusion" now mean that we must accept illegal immigration?

Does our "unique culture, history, and spirit of inclusion" suggest that we are distinct enough from the other 49 states to justify a state amnesty that encourages more illegal immigraiton - thus impacting other states?

Why is it considered inhumane to send someone back to their nation of origin?

Why are laws that seek to maintain order in our immigration system, consider the impact of immigration on American families and communities, and serve our national interest, considered inhumane?

We are not told the answer to any of these questions.  The Compact merely controls the discussion by moving us away from them.

True, there are a variety of circumstances and situations that many people are in that may warrant exceptions.

But, granting exceptions, when enforcement remains too weak to discourage illegal immigration, is to invite more of it and an increase in the problems associated with it.

The government needs to convince us that enforcement is effective and will prevent further illegal immigration before the question of exceptions can be considered.

15.  The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors.

Again, the tiresome and misleading use of "immigrants" when the Utah Compact crowd means "illegal immigrants."

So, it should read: "The way we treat illegal immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our illegal immigrant neighbors."

If we firmly, but humanely, enforce our immigration laws, it will say that we are serious about our laws and we will discourage further illegal immigration.

If we ignore enforcement, we send the message to all that we will look the other way - that includes those who would intentionally do us harm.

This statement also implies that illegal immigrants are not responsible for their actions and that almost any justification for violating our immigration laws should be accepted.

It also subtly implies that it is our duty, and one which defines good citizenship, to welcome any and all who violate our immigration laws.  The message is a cloaked invitation to ignore our immigration laws.  It further suggests that illegal immigrants can expect that immigration laws will be ignored and that they will find a local populace who will agree that ignoring them is a good thing.

16.  Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.

Yet again, by "people of goodwill," the Compact group clearly means "illegal aliens."

The statement should actually read:  "Utah should always be a place that welcomes illegal immigrants of goodwill."

This is surely a very strange proposition.

No one rejects the idea of welcoming people of goodwill - provided they come here legally.

However, many, if not most, would have a hard time accepting the idea that Utah should now be inviting people of goodwill to come here illegally.

The Compact does not merely call for an amnesty for those already here, it calls for accepting illegal immigrants in perpetuity.

Did the Compact writers merely make a mistake?  That's a good question.

Perhaps it's one we could discuss - that is, if the Utah Compact as a "guide" to our immigration discussion will permit it.



From the above discussion, it appears that the Utah Compact has many serious problems, some of these are as follows:

It leaves too many important questions unanswered - some because it doesn't want them considered.

It does not guide the illegal immigration discussion; it seeks to control it by channeling the discussion into its concepts and closing off discussion to ideas not already embodied in the Compact's set of propositions.

It reduces the number of issues involved and the complexity of those issues into a small set of statements that create the illusion of having solved something because they look good on paper.

It sneaks in specific policy directives, while hiding them behind more general concepts that make them appear more reasonable and noble than they really are when examined closely.

It seeks to create an unconstitutional state amnesty.

It promotes illegal immigration.

It challenges us to ignore legitimate law enforcement issues that can be addressed by the state, in cooperation with the federal government, and seems to rely on a fundamentally flawed sense of the purpose of law.

It asks us to accept its premises without examination.

We can certainly list additional problems with the Utah Compact.

When we closely examine the Utah Compact, we are faced with an obvious conclusion: the Utah Compact is a deficient tool for addressing the complexity of issues surrounding the problem of illegal immigration.

The Utah Compact has some good points, but they need to be extracted and considered within a truly open and comprehensive immigration debate - a debate that the Utah Compact as a "guide" fails to create - but one that is necessary for finding good solutions to the problem of illegal immgration.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis of this deceitful document.