Good morning. Thank you for being here today to discuss immigration reform in the State of Utah. Although the challenges surrounding the issue of illegal immigration are significant, I have asked each of you to participate in this roundtable because they are not insurmountable.
Unfortunately, many of the problems we face today have been decades in the making.
For too long, the federal government has failed to secure our borders and has not developed a meaningful national immigration policy. The negative impact of these failures has been compounded by the reality that the federal government has not, in large part, chosen to enforce existing immigration laws.
Consequently, the number of immigrants who are in the United States illegally is creating societal challenges and costs that simply can no longer go unaddressed. Inaction by the federal government leaves individual states little choice but to enter the immigration reform dialogue. It is up to us to find innovative solutions for our unique illegal immigration problems.
I am often asked if I support the "Arizona law." Let me just say this: Utah is not Arizona. We are not a border state, and - while our concerns may be similar in some ways - Arizona has different challenges than we have here in Utah. My purpose is to focus on what is in our state's best interest, and how we - as Utahns - can collaborate to find appropriate solutions. I am not as concerned about the "Arizona law" as I am interested in the Utah solution.
As Governor, I want to see our state take a thoughtful and rational approach to immigration reform. Unfortunately, this is an emotional issue that some will try to politicize to our collective detriment. This is not a time for clever sound bites or political posturing. This issue is too important for that. Instead, we must search for common ground.
We cannot have misguided individuals releasing private information about people they suspect of living in our state illegally. The list of alleged illegal immigrants that was released last week by now former government workers did not enhance the cause of immigration reform - in fact, it did just the opposite: it divided our community at a time when we need to come together. The tactics used by the people who created the list are appalling and unacceptable.
I have asked each of you to meet today so that we can listen to thoughtful voices on all sides of the illegal immigration issue while avoiding the toxic rhetoric that will derail any possible progress. Accordingly, the participants and the agenda for today's meeting have been chosen as representatives of differing points of view on this issue.
This is not an exhaustive group, we know that there are others with a desire to participate and are qualified to be seated at this table. But I am confident that we have a representative group up here today that will help us generate dialogue on this issue - not just debate.
As a starting point, I submit some guiding principles that should be considered as we discuss immigration reform options:
1. There must be respect for the law. The Utah solution must acknowledge that U.S. citizenship - by birth or grant - requires reverence for and adherence to the law.
2. The federal government has a responsibility to secure our borders, to enforce immigration laws, and to draft meaningful immigration policy. The federal government must act.
3. There must be greater accountability from the private sector. Businesses must be responsible for establishing hiring practices that comply with the law to verify legal documentation of all workers.
4. The Utah solution should recognize and respect the humanity of all people. Immigration reform efforts must be fair, colorblind and race- neutral.
5. We must provide appropriate tools for law enforcement. The Utah solution must give law enforcement officers the ability, through resources and training, to enforce the law and to keep our communities safe.
6. We must relieve the burden on taxpayers. There are significant societal costs associated with illegal immigration that simply must be addressed. Our Utah communities, and our taxpayers, cannot be expected bear this financial burden.
The goal for today's meeting is to encourage you, as some of the state's key stakeholders, to really listen to each other. Listening is the first step to understanding and it will lead to solutions.
In a moment, I am going to ask each of you to address the group. You can say whatever you like, but I ask that you not take more than 90 seconds each. This arrangement will make sure that, in our first hour, everyone has an opportunity to make salient comments while also having plenty of time to listen. I encourage you to refrain from trying to debate statistics and instead focus on concepts and principles. Remember, today is a time to narrow the divide not to take advantage of it.
Now let me introduce Palmer DePaulis, who will moderate this roundtable discussion.
At the beginning of this meeting, I made a single request of each of you - that you spend most of your time today listening with the intent of coming together to find common ground solutions.
As we conclude, I ask you to reflect upon what you may have heard today that will enable you to be part of the dialogue - not just the debate - in upcoming weeks and months.
I also ask that you take what we've done here today and replicate it in your communities of interest. Today should have been the beginning of an ongoing conversation in our state - one that should continue well beyond today.
Please, take the time to truly listen - because, as I said earlier, listening is the first step toward understanding.