Immigration Lessons from a Conservative State: The Utah Compact

In January a delegation of leaders and members of the Alliance for a Just Society went to Salt Lake City, Utah to learn about the Utah Compact. The Utah Compact is a set of principals designed to guide Utah citizens, goverment, and community leaders in speaking about immigration issues in a humane and respectful way. Though widely known as a conservative state, Utah’s Compact is an important,  model for  advancing a constructive dialogue about immigration issues.During the trip, Alliance representatives met with the Sutherland Institute, the Downtown Business Alliance/Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Utah ACLU, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the city Police Department, who were all part of creating the Utah Compact.

Alliance leaders learned that the creators framed the Utah Compact by using values they felt most appeal to the general population in Utah. The Sutherland Institute stressed that they used conservative values that emphasize the need to treat people as people — not as objects – because that is what helps build a community. The Institute believes that conservatives have an inclination to see people as people, honor the truth — not ideology — and build community.

For the Salt Lake City Police Department, their stake in the Utah Compact arose from the fact that it was important to them that local law enforcement focus on local criminal laws rather than enforcing federal laws. If the police department began focusing on immigration laws, it would create stress among their members and impede officers from doing good work. Chief of Police Chris Burbank stated that, “Time and time again, when speaking to community groups, I am impressed with the number of people who agree that local law enforcement resources should not be used to enforce federal immigration law. Many ask how they can make a difference.” Burbank also emphasized that “The Utah Compact now provides an avenue for individuals to add their voice to the call for rational, reasonable discussion, hopefully in a manner lawmakers will recognize.” ((

The LDS Church believes that the Utah Compact is a “responsible approach to the urgent challenge of immigration reform.” According to the church, the Utah Compact represents their values and “public officials should create and administer laws that reflect the best of our aspirations as a just and caring society. Such laws will properly balance love for neighbors, family cohesion, and the observance of just and enforceable laws.” ((

One of the recurring themes in all the discussions in Utah was compassion. Whether conservative or progressive, the creators of the Utah Compact believe that all people, regardless of status, should be treated with dignity and respect.

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