Believe it or not, real immigration reform has been achieved in America. The bill includes a liberal guest worker program that grants legal status to undocumented workers, so they can live relatively normal lives. Some people have called that “amnesty”.
But what is truly amazing is that this bill is set to become law in Utah, one of the reddest and most conservative states in the union. The state legislature, which passed the bill, is overwhelmingly Republican, and the Republican governor is expected to sign the bill. The bill’s chief sponsor is Bill Wright, a Republican who is as hard core conservative as they get. What happened?
A milestone in setting the stage for Wright’s legislation was the “Utah Compact,” a pithy declaration of reform principles drafted last fall by business leaders and conservative elites, who feared Utah would follow in Arizona’s footsteps and risk losing tens of millions of dollars in tourism and convention business, as Arizona did. The compact helped swing public opinion in Utah away from the illegal-immigrant bashers who admired Arizona’s law.
“They’ve had their 15 minutes in the media and now the adults are going to start talking about how to handle matters,” said Paul Mero, executive director of Utah’s most prominent conservative think tank, the Sutherland Institute, who helped draft the compact. “We’ve been able to break through that political barrier put up by the wing nuts who see every brown person as a criminal.”
The Utah conservatives managed to reframe immigration as an economic issue, pointing out that deporting all the illegal aliens would destroy their economy. Not only that, but it would break up families, and conservatives are supposed to be pro-family.
Ironically, at the national level, the Republicans are still the Party of No. None of Utah’s congressional delegation (including the senators) support the bill. They are still too busy using immigration reform as a wedge issue — playing politics instead of solving our national problems. In a stunning hypocritical flip flop, John McCain even turned against an immigration reform bill he helped write in 2007.
But I applaud the conservatives and Republicans in Utah who courageously got this sensible bill passed.