Editor’s Note: These are prepared remarks by Natalie Gochnour, chief economist and executive VP of policy and communication at the Chamber, for the Forging Consensus National Strategy Session Press Conference on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Photo credit: Jack Gordon.
Approximately two years ago a large and diverse group of Utah community leaders gathered at the Utah State Capitol to affix their names to The Utah Compact.
With the stroke of a pen, the business community, interfaith leaders, public safety officials, other community leaders and citizenry signed The Utah Compact – a simple, short, values-based and inspirational document that called out five principles to inform Utah’s immigration discussion.
In the days that followed, the New York Times – a news’ entity not known for heaping praise on a state like Utah – published an editorial on the Compact that said, “A clearer expression of good sense and sanity than Utah’s would be hard to find.”
Later, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board noted Utah’s Ronald Reagan-like support of free-market principles in finding an immigration solution.
Better still, in the next legislative session, the Utah Legislature passed landmark state-level immigration reform legislation that balanced the legitimate need for improved enforcement with the very real economic and human needs associated with immigration reform.
Utah became the first and only state to have a state-level temporary worker law. While the law had a delayed implementation date … our message to the outside world was clear:
· Utah is a state that recognizes the economic contributions of immigrants.
· Utah is a state that puts families first.
· Utah is a state that welcomes the world, much like we did during the 2002 Olympic Games.
· And importantly, Utah is state that believes human kindness should be a defining virtue of our residents.
The Utah Compact has now been replicated by a dozen other states.
States all around the country are rallying to promote a more civil, constructive and compassionate approach to immigration reform. It’s high time for Washington, D.C. to do its part. I’m here today because we need the people inside the Beltway to replicate some of the magic occurring in the states.
So I’m here as a western business leader to ask our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., to forge a new consensus… a consensus similar to what is being found in states like Utah.
We seek legislation that will:
· Modernize our nation’s immigration laws so that future immigration of workers and families is legal and orderly. We need more engineers, more scientists, more agricultural workers, more tourism workers, and more construction workers, just to name a few.
· Create a workable roadmap to lawful status and citizenship for people of good will who are already here.
· Improve enforcement in the workplace and on the border.
We call on Members of Congress and the Obama Administration to pass sweeping immigration reform this year.