Mountain West Leaders Find Common Ground on Immigration
October 27, 2011
Salt Lake City, Utah — On October 26, prominent business, faith, law enforcement and government leaders from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho gathered together in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Mountain West Summit: Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America to discuss and develop a pragmatic approach to the nation’s immigration challenges.
University of Idaho demographer, Priscilla Salant explained that over the last decade, the Mountain West region has seen an influx of immigrants who are now integral to the region’s long term prosperity. In addition to contributing to the critical workforce in the agricultural, construction, hospitality and manufacturing sectors, immigrants revitalized towns and local economies. Immigrants open new businesses and spend their wages in U.S. businesses, which in turn, sustain the jobs of the workers employed by those businesses.
Participants at the summit included leaders with ruby-red credentials like Utah’s Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Republican Mayor Paul Bridges of Uvalda, Georgia. Opening the Summit, Attorney General Shurtleff said, “Utah has found a way to talk about immigration, to set aside walls and barriers in a debate that is about walls and barriers. We can’t follow the path of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina and go backwards on the issue of immigration. Utah and the Mountain West are leading the debate.”
Mayor Bridges discussed the impact of Georgia’s harsh immigration law on the economy where the agricultural industry has already lost $300 million and could lose up to $1 billion dollars because of labor shortages caused by the tough immigration law. “My town depends on a booming agricultural industry. The Georgia law puts farmers at great risk,” said the Mayor.
Warren Klug of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association put a finer point on Congressional consideration of E-Verify as a national program, “Without comprehensive immigration reform, E-Verify is a ticking time bomb pushing business to the brink and workers further underground.”
Natalie Gochnour of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce summarized the challenge and opportunity ahead stating, “As leaders of a rational immigration debate, the Mountain West states need to come together for a unified approach to pressure Congress to take action and fix the system.”
It is clear the Mountain West is leading the way by starting the conversation necessary to reach a practical federal solution. Beginning with the “Utah Compact”, and now with this Summit, the Mountain West is creating a unique moment in which pragmatism can trump partisanship.
Salt Lake City Chief of Police Chris Burbank emphasized that the nation must find a workable solution for dealing with unauthorized immigrants because “you cannot in any way shape or form deport 11 million people. It will be extremely costly, impractical and unrealistic.”
Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, closed the event, “This is not a conversation that started today, nor is it a conversation that ends today. A consensus on the social and economic value of immigrants and immigration to the Mountain West was forged. It is our collective responsibility to grow this consensus across the country in the weeks and months ahead.”