Salt Lake Chamber Dupes the Supporters of the Utah Compact

By Ronald W. Mortensen on April 13, 2011

Did the Salt Lake Chamber dupe Utah's religious organizations, social justice groups, and media outlets into helping it pass legislation that guarantees its business members a large pool of low-cost, easily exploited illegal alien labor? It appears that that may have been the case.

In 2010, the Salt Lake Chamber played a leading role in the development of the Utah Compact, which makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.

Religious, community, and social leaders quickly signed onto the Compact in order to demonstrate compassion for illegal aliens and their families.

The Chamber then played a key role in drafting a bill (HB116) that was purportedly based on the Compact. The Chamber sold it to other signers of the Compact as a unique, compassionate solution to Utah's illegal immigration problem, in spite of the fact that the core precepts of the bill had been developed by the Chamber in 2008, well before the time the Compact was rolled out.

With the support of religious leaders, social justice advocates, and media organizations, the Chamber succeeded in getting HB116 passed by the legislature late on a Friday evening before most of the legislators had even read the bill. A short time later, the governor signed it.

Now, a month after passage of HB116, many of those who helped pass it recognize that the Salt Lake Chamber used the Utah Compact as a tool to defeat legislation that would have negatively impacted its members' ability to hire low-cost, easily exploited illegal alien workers.

Compassion and family unity were only buzz words used by the Chamber to gain support for HB116, which was deemed by the legislature's own attorneys to be unconstitutional and which requires federal waivers than are apparently impossible to obtain. A chief architect of the bill, Sen. Curt Bramble, described the bill as nothing more than "A resolution on steroids."

Thus, the illegal aliens that most supporters of HB116 wanted to help are no better off than before the bill passed. They still cannot work legally, have no access to guest worker permits, continue to be easily exploited by employers, and still risk having family members deported. If HB116 were to be implemented in 2013 without federal waivers not only would illegal aliens continue to be illegally in Utah but in order to obtain and retain a Utah work permit they would be totally dependent on their employers.

Bishop John C. Wester of the Catholic Church, one of the strongest supporters of illegal aliens in the nation, recognized the duplicity of the Chamber and its political allies. He refused to attend the signing ceremony for the Chamber's HB116 and expressed his deep concerns about the Chamber's and governor's immigration solution.

The Salt Lake Tribune, a strong supporter of the Compact, has called for the repeal of HB116 because it is unconstitutional and does nothing to solve the problems faced by illegal aliens.

The extremely influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) now tells anyone who calls its public affairs office that it did not and does not directly support HB116 and issued a statement denying that the presence of a senior Church official at the signing ceremony signified direct support for HB116.

Republican legislators and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert who enacted HB116 have come under withering criticism from members of their own party and will likely face serious challenges in 2012.

Republican legislators are running scared and are now trying to convince their constituents that they voted for HB116 because of the LDS church's support for it.

Efforts are underway in Utah to repeal HB116 and the coalition that the Salt Lake Chamber put together to pass the bill appears to be fragmenting as more is learned about the Chamber's self-serving actions that placed profit ahead of the principles of the Utah Compact.

In spite of this, the "Utah Solution" continues to be touted as a model for the nation by the Salt Lake Chamber and its political allies, including Utah Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff and Gov. Herbert.

The Chamber and its allies nationwide are now touting what they call "America's Compact" in order to develop a national coalition. It will be interesting to see if religious and social justice groups and advocates for illegal aliens will be duped in other states and at the national level like they were in Utah or if they recognize the Chamber's efforts for what they really are – guaranteeing an unlimited source of low-cost, illegal alien labor that is totally beholden to employers.