Nineteen Utah mayors warned of negative ramifications for not acting on immigration reform in a letter addressed to U.S. senators Mike Lee and Orin Hatch this month.
“We write to you today to urge you to work with your colleagues in the Senate to pass meaningful legislation,” read the letter. “If the two of you become leaders on this important issue, we are confident that bipartisan reform will fall into place.”
The letter argued that an immigrant workforce is crucial to the state’s technology, agriculture and tourism divisions. Although both Lee and Hatch say they support comprehensive reform, the mayors of Utah expressed hope that such a breakthrough will occur during the current wave of federal debate.
Park City Mayor Dana Williams and West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder were the first to initiate the letter. Mayor Williams has been working for several years now on immigration reform and has recently had the opportunity to participate in conference calls with the White House on immigration policy.
“They (immigrants) are just as American as we are, and I feel very strongly that they have every right to achieve the things we can achieve,” Williams said.
Although all 19 mayors don’t wholly agree how reform should take place, Williams said each believes reform is vital for Utah’s economy.
“This is not a party issue,” Williams said. “I think this is a very American issue and making a pathway is the best way to see change.”
St. George Mayor Dan McArthur, who signed the letter, said he sees shifting attitudes on immigration.
“There needs to be a way that is attainable and measurable for immigrants to come to our country,” McArthur said. “Our country is a country of immigrants, but with that being said those that came before were expected to take on the culture and honor the flag. I firmly believe that has to be a part of immigration reform today.”
McArthur owns his own personal welding business and has two foreign workers that went through the E-Verifiy processes. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
“Two of the employees I have that are from out of the country are great, hard workers and very valuable to my business,” McArhur said. “They are good citizens, and they are legally working here. … I believe this is how it should be.”
In the last month Lee and Hatch have showed a willingness to promote immigration reform, although they were also vocal about their concerns with the bill currently being discussed. In an exclusive interview with The Universe, Lee said he hopes that by late June the debate will come to a resolution so Congress can discuss smaller-scale, more short-term legislation.