USA Today Tells the Country About Utah (and Immigration) 'Cause Nobody Seems to Know


It's 10 days old, but I just stumbled across a very interesting USA Today article with meat on the immigration debate. While telling no heart-tugging tales of personal or community destruction because of stupid immigration law enforcement, it does present an interesting picture, without any obvious ideological red meat for either side of the immigration debate, of how a certain community is adjusting to a huge influx of immigrants: largely Mormon (62 percent, though falling) Utah.

Some details:

Utah allows the undocumented to drive legally with a "driving privilege card." They can attend public colleges and universities and pay in-state tuition. Minorities–mostly Hispanics–make up 16.5% of the population, up from 8.8% in 1990. They could reach 20% by 2010. Hispanics are driving the growth among minorities here. The state's black and Asian populations also are growing but more slowly.
Utahans in 2004 gave President Bush his biggest margin over Democrat John Kerry in any state—72% to 26%. How can one of America's most conservative places be so receptive to immigrants?

"The LDS faith believes you can be conservative and yet be compassionate," says Marco Diaz, past chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, which tries to attract more Hispanics to the party. "Help thy neighbor and love thy neighbor and still try to be fiscal conservatives."

How long Utah will embrace this philosophy remains to be seen……About 100,000 of Utah's foreign-born residents—about half—are here illegally, says Pamela Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah.

It's not like Utah is an open-border paradise; though it does seem as if the community, like America as a whole, is caught up in some cognitive dissonance about what actually constitutes the country they live in and their dreams of how tough immigration law might work; in this year's Utah Senate primary

Incumbent congressman [Chris] Cannon, who narrowly won the Republican primary in June, says, "The whole race was about immigration." His opponent was political newcomer and millionaire real estate developer John Jacob, who favored sending illegal immigrants home before giving them a chance at citizenship and punishing employers who hire them.

Cannon is far from liberal on the issue. He voted for a bill that would make helping illegal immigrants a crime and illegal residency a felony. But he supports President Bush's proposed guest-worker program. Cannon and Jacob are Mormon.

"It's better for America to be proud of America and not take harsh views of the world," Cannon says. "I hope Utah is one of these places where we dampen the harshness."……The state's Hispanic population soared to about 270,000 in 2005, up 33.1% since 2000. Hispanics contributed about a quarter of the state's growth in the 1990s.

So, given the narrow range of opinion on immigration as represented in the state's GOP Senate primary, do the people of Utah really want 100,000 of their fellow residents shipped away as felons? Including, say, the ones working for them, or working at the stores they frequent, or building the homes or offices they might live and work in, or their kids school pals? I hope Utah, and America, never has to resolve this dilemma between their professed anger about scofflaw immigrants and the way their economy and community is actually constituted these days; or if they must, that the anger, not the people, gets deported.

Headline allusion from Randy Newman's song "Beehive State"–the best song I've ever heard about American democracy.

NEXT: PETA for One Welcomes Our New Cockroach Overlords[*]

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  1. There is still plenty of room for housing in Utah; real estate is quite affordable. In the hills around Sandy you can see many new homes that would cost over a million easy here in NoVA. These include some very lovely and expansive gardens.
    I’m guessing that these homeowners are assuming that the pool of cheap landscaping labor will be omnipresent indefinitely.
    Oh, and before we pat them on the back too much for their progressive views on immigration, let me add that I heard the term “mexican jobs” more than a few times while I was there and not from people like Cannon.

  2. There are lots of Polynesian immigrants here in Utah who will do jobs that Americans won’t do. Some of them overstayed visas but most are here legally. It’s hard to walk here from Tonga.

    And, better yet, they love football; not that Godless, Commie sport of soccer like Mexicans.

  3. There’s much, much more to Cannon that the author didn’t discuss. For instance, one of those quoted while an aide to CC encouraged illegal aliens to donate to CC’s campaign, while CC sat by. And, much much more. And, Utah’s gov has some interesting links. Strangely, despite writing all those words and providing all those statistics, the author of the USAToday article forgot to look into what’s actually going on.

  4. FYI, the Book of Mormon teaches that the natives of Central America are Lamanites descended from Jews who arrived in 600 BC. The Mormons were about the only Anglo settlers of the West who made an effort to improve the lot of the natives, who as Utes are linguistic and genetic kin to the Aztecs.

    I’m not at all surprised that the Mormons are friendly to “Hispanic” immigrants.

  5. Utah allows the undocumented to drive legally with a “driving privilege card.”

    You gotta love that pro-illegal-immigrant doubletalk; it’d make me wonder what they’re trying to hide if I didn’t already know.

  6. Sorry, but I just can’t take any article seriously that uses the term “Utahans”.

    For anyone who’s curious, it’s Utahns. Only snooty clueless eastern newspaper editors would use the term “Utahans”.

    And Federal bureaucrats. Which probably is the strongest evidence that it’s the wrong term to use.

  7. When I moved to Utah 6 years ago, I went over the DMV to get a new driver’s license. I took my old Maryland license and my passport.

    I was refused a Utah license. Instead of my official U.S. passport, I was expected to bring my easily forged Social Security card to prove that I was a citizen. I demanded to see the supervisor.

    He too rejected my passport as proof of citizenship. I explained to the supervisor that I was in the process of unpacking and that my Social Security card was not easily accessible. The alternative was to go to the local Social Security office and have them verify my S.S.#

    Verification of my S.S.# consisted of a computer printout. Yes, folks! A computer printout that I could have easily typed out on my word processor! I took this flimsy piece of documentation over to the DMV and they promptly issued a driver’s license.


    So…I you are an illegal resident. Definitely choose Utah. Have a friend print out a fake S.S.# on their computer. Take the TRAX train to the DMV, and just that easily you too will have a driver’s license just as official as mine. By the way, Utah citizen’s will ask you politely to vote just once.

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