Utah Attorney General Pushes Sensible Immigration Policies

Written by on October 3, 2012 in DACA/DAPA, Integration, Legislation, State and Local with 3 Comments

Republican Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has become a poignant and effective advocate for smart immigration policies, including the DREAM Act.  On Monday, Shurtleff spoke at the Immigration Law and Policy Conference, in Washington D.C., where he concluded that the “biggest casualty in the immigration debate is the truth.” Shurtleff understands prosecutorial discretion, and is firmly behind the Obama Administration’s recent decisions to exercise prosecutorial discretion for immigrant youth (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA) and in cases where the individuals are not enforcement priorities. Shurtleff went on to describe Utah’s recent immigration legislation, which includes an enforcement law, as well as a provision that creates a state guestworker program.  He explained that he is still in conversations withthe federal government about how Utah can exercise prosecutorial discretion for unauthorized “guestworkers” and the employers who hire them.

In a recent publication, penned by Shurtleff “A Dream of Youthful Hopes,” published by First Focus, he discusses his own path toward supporting immigration integration laws, including in-state tuition for undocumented youth and driving permits for unauthorized immigrant drivers in Utah.  In doing so, he eloquently describes America’s progress toward a more just system for everyone and places the DREAMERS in a long line of activists, including Dred Scott, who sued for his freedom, Linda Brown, who paved the way toward school desegregation, the Lopez children, who fought to attend school in Texas in the 1970s, and others who have fought for their education.  He writes, “Education continues to be the vehicle by which immigrants and natives alike have dared to dream youthful hopes and reach the stars.”

Shurtleff describes an experience he had participating in an inner-city school mentoring program:

I’ll never forget the day when one fifth-grader boldly…declared that his older brother, who happened to be in a local gang, told him “white people” say they are all “illegals” and should be kicked out or put in jail and could not make it in Utah, so being a gangbanger was the only way…  I tried to persuade him that this was not the case, but he demonstrated his intellect and his street education when he asked me “then [why can’t I] go to college?” I could not answer that young man that day, but I vowed I would try to do something about it.

Utah became the second state to authorize in-state tuition for unauthorized students, and is the only state that allows unauthorized immigrants to obtain a driving privilege card, which can be used only for driving purposes.  The Utah Compact – a set of principles to guide Utah’s immigration discussion, which has the support of law enforcement, business, and religious organizations – has been the model for other states.  Shurtleff credits the Compact for educating Utah’s voters when proponents of Arizona-style laws threatened to overturn Utah’s laws and replace the legislators who supported them and is encouraging other states to create their own Compacts.  Unfortunately Utah’s enforcement law is modeled on the Arizona law and, while it has been enjoined by the courts and many provisions are likely to be struck following the recent Supreme Court decision, it means that Utah is not quite ready to be held up as the model for other states as Shurtleff describes.

However, as Maryland faces a possible repeal of its in-state tuition law, and other states continue to battle anti-immigrant legislation, Shurtleff stands out as an important voice of reason, making both the economic and humanitarian case for educating all of our youth, regardless of their immigration status.  If Congress is going to act on fundamental reforms, more voices like Shurtleff’s need to be heard.

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  • Victoria Sethunya

    Utah is one of the states that has enrolled in Secure Communities. A wrong turn signal is a switch for deportation proceedings for immigrants in Utah because police turn them in to ICE. I know at least 5 Latino families that encountered ICE through a minor traffic violation.

    I was arrested and thrown into an immigration legal jungle for an immigration status that I was told was lost due computer errors. AG Mark Shurtleff stood with the University and said that since I had “graduated” from college the university had not obligation to fix my documents. My I-20’s have incorrect information that has affected my dependents. My diploma has been calibrated using another student’s information while I am being asked to leave the US.

    AG Shurtleff speaks like another Romney. In public debates, he supports Obama but in real practice, he reminds me of an African flea. You do not know when it stung you but you just see redness and swelling when you wake up in the morning.

  • Victoria Sethunya

    What the AG is talking about in this article is very beautiful news. On the other hand it makes you wonder where people like immigration Judge Nixon fare in this whole puzzle.

    As far as being in a “line of activists” the mentally ill could be out of luck if they cannot even have a judge to speak on their behalf…Judge Nixon’s interaction with a mentally ill person in his court was a chilling experience for me.
    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/53099725-90/assault-culas-deportation-garcia.html.csp., December 13, 2011. It makes me wonder why Utah leaders appear in many news fronts advocating “soft stance” and “compassion” for those appearing before immigration courts.

    For me, a case like this exemplified above makes me wonder whether Utah is putting on a mask to “appear” one way when in fact they way the state deals with immigrants does not match the face Utah is presenting to the world.

    But I see that I am not alone in my amazement regarding Judge Nixon. For example, this quotation
    Attorneys question whether, as Tarin puts it, the aging Nixon “should hang up his gloves,” a conclusion he supports by pointing to a 2010 10th Circuit decision on an asylum case that found a Nixon asylum ruling included “rather baffling findings … accompanied by an impenetrable one,” shows that immigrants in Utah face more difficulties than Utah politicians present to the world. As a matter of fact the situation now is much worse that it previously was because Judge Pead has moved to the Federal District Court leaving lives of immigrants in the hands of Judge Nixon.

    Most puzzling to me is that in a state of Utah portrayed as AG Shurtleff is said to have presented in the article, there comes an article titled : “Deportation Factory: The Return of Jim Crow” and “Deportation Glitch”. These titles do indicate to me that immigrants in Utah are indeed in a “long line of activists”.

    How bizarre!


  • Victoria Sethunya

    First of all, City Weekly in Utah published an article called “Deportation Factory” with one of the key titles called “The Return of Jim Crow”. There was another article called “Deportation Glitch” where a student expected that her student status would take over from where the US entry visa ended. All of these things are happening under Mark Shurtleff’s watch. Shurtleff will say anything for material gain and that is the reputation he has built for himself in Utah.

    Fortunately or unfortunately the media chooses to portray people like him who are like Mitt Romney as though they CAN be pro immigrant and often they shut out replies that tell a different story.

    Arizona anti human immigration laws were imported into Utah daylight, and the state police still continue to ask people where they were born just upon pulling the over. It happened to me in Utah and I can only imagine that I am not an exception.