Friday, May 3, 2013

The Utah Compact, One Mann’s Analysis

The Utah CompactIn March of this year the Utah County Republican Central Committee considered replacing the text in its platform regarding immigration with the Utah Compact. Prior to this I had not taken the time to do a critical view of Compact. The Central Committee rejected the change bit did adopt a compromise measure. This measure needed to be ratified at the county organizing convention but was rejected today. Given that the original immigration plank remains I suspect the issue of adopting The Compact or similar language will be raised again. Below is the Compact followed by my analysis of it related to adopting it as part of a party platform.

FEDERAL SOLUTIONS Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah’s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.

LAW ENFORCEMENT  We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement’s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code. 

FAMILIES  Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children.

ECONOMY  Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play as workers and taxpayers. Utah’s immigration policies must reaffirm our global reputation as a welcoming and business-friendly state.

A FREE SOCIETY  Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill.


My thoughts

1.   Federal Solutions:

The compact starts with a statement that immigration is a federal issue and then near the end (see paragraph 4) states that "Utah immigration policies ... ." I have two points of concern here.

    • First, the obvious contradiction that If the Federal government has sole ownership of immigration, how can Utah have an immigration policy?
    • Second, while, according to the Constitution (see Article I, Section 8) Congress has the power to establish a "uniform rule of naturalization" there is less clarity in regards to who can set immigration standards and policies. There are legitimate arguments to be made on the side that States have a say as it relates to immigration.

2.   Law Enforcement

In paragraph two the Compact states that local law enforcement should ignore civil violations of Federal code. Is this statement to be read as all civil violations of Federal code or only those that deal with immigration? How is that respecting the rule of law? BTW entering the country illegally is a misdemeanor, akin to a traffic violation, not just a civil violation (overstaying a visa is a civil matter).

I’ve heard from a number of people that illegal immigration is a civil as opposed to criminal issue. With respect to entering the country outside of the "legal process" USC 1325 indicates that this an offense punishable by up to 6 month imprisonment for the first offense. There is also a fine of between $50 to $250 per entry attempt. Below is the actual text from the US Code.

(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection; misrepresentation and concealment of facts Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

(b) Improper time or place; civil penalties. Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of -

(1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
(2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under
this subsection.

Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.

Paragraph A clearly defines the crime and gives guidance is to the criminal penalties. Paragraph B talks about the associated civil penalties for this act. I suppose if you only read B then you could assume that this was only a civil issue but that is not the case. Additionally, according to the following definition of the difference between civil and criminal law (and there are many similar ones)  illegal entry is a crime because it seeks to punish not obtain redress.

"The difference between civil law and criminal law turns on the difference between two different objects which law seeks to pursue - redress or punishment. The object of civil law is the redress of wrongs by compelling compensation or restitution: the wrongdoer is not punished; he only suffers so much harm as is necessary to make good the wrong he has done. The person who has suffered gets a definite benefit from the law, or at least he avoids a loss. On the other hand, in the case of crimes, the main object of the law is to punish the wrongdoer; to give him and others a strong inducement not to commit same or similar crimes, to reform him if possible and perhaps to satisfy the public sense that wrongdoing ought to meet with retribution.”

If a Utah resident is caught with marijuana he or she is given a citation and a request to appear in court. The punishment may be simply a fine or could include jail time. It is a minor or misdemeanor offense but it is a criminal offense nonetheless.  The punishment for entering the country illegally is also a minor offense (although following the 1st offense you can get up to 2 years of jail time which I don't consider minor).

3.   Families

In paragraph three the Compact states: "We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children." Sounds good, but who determines which policies benefit the health, education and well-being of all Utah children? Also, should Utah not be concerned with the health, education and well-being of ALL of its RESIDENTS not just children?

4.   Economy

Paragraph four states that “Utah is best served by a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom ... ." Isn't that somewhat in opposition to the previous statement that Utah should put in place policies that improve the health, education and well-being of all Utah children? While I'm not opposed to the state, as opposed the Federal government, having some involvement in these areas there is a line and it does get crossed (e.g. Obama care, NYC Mayor Bloomberg's attempt at restrictions on sodas et. al.) Should the free market be involved or should the government? Arguments can be made on either side but, in any case, I see an inconsistency.

In summary, while there are laudable sentiments expressed in the Utah Compact, I do not support including it as part of a platform because of the inconsistencies plus vague and ambiguous language. A platform should be clear and readily understood.

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