Thursday, February 24, 2011

The State of Utah Rights

I'm going to try to lay it out as simply as I can. I know the philosophy that small, close-to-home government is supposed to be the best government. However, it doesn't always work. This is where Madison's larger and more diverse republic comes in to diffuse and diminish the power of potentially oppressive majorities. (Federalist 9 & 10).

Utah is the case in point. I don't think the state legislators are anything other than well-intentioned. But the Utah Legislature is overwhelmingly dominated by Anglo, middle-class, LDS, male Republicans. USA Today reports that 57% of Utah residents claim to be LDS. That's a pretty solid majority. Now, I can't find a good report on the religious affiliation of the Utah Legislature (if anybody knows of one, please link it in), but the party dynamic is rather astounding. Of 29 Utah State Senators, 22 are Republican. In the House, there are 58 Republicans to 17 Democrats! Until I find that religious breakdown or somebody proves me wrong, I'm going to assume that most if not all the Republicans are LDS. And I think even some of the Democrats are too, shocking as that may be to some Mormons. This Mormon majority in the legislature is significantly greater than the LDS percentage in the population as a whole.

Utah has a lot of diversity, much more than twenty years ago when we used to live here. But all the diversity is still greatly overshadowed by the dominant religious culture in the Legislature. Now, I'm not saying these Mormon legislators would do bad stuff to all the minorities intentionally. I mean, I'm part of that group (sort of) and we're generally the good guys and nice to everybody. But if they have the idea that state government is the best government because they know what solutions are best for their local situation, what kind of solutions do you think they will come up with? Would it be from a Catholic perspective? Maybe an African-American one? Perhaps they will apply a uniquely Latin American solution to a complex local problem. No, I think they would most likely come up with solutions for local problems from their own Anglo, middle-class, LDS, male, Mormon perspective. And once again, I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Yet it has a very strong potential of leaving certain minority views and interests out of the equation.

The current example of this is the ongoing debate on illegal immigration. Today, the proponent of the Arizona-lite bill, Rep. Sandstrom (R. Orem), posted an Op-Ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune. I encourage you to read it. And as you do, put yourself in the shoes of a legal, US-born or even naturalized, Hispanic citizen. When you read how Sandstrom is only concerned about the illegals, you just might wonder how the police are supposed to know at first impression when you unintentionally run that orange light that you are a US Citizen and not some guy who jumped the fence in Tijuana last week. You might reasonably wonder if the white Mormons in their SUV's are going to be as suspect as you will be. And what about the illegal Canadians? You see, the problem with this is not with the illegals (even if they deserve some basic human rights). The problem is with the legal Hispanics as a class who will be disproportionately targeted by the law. The point being, Sandstrom, with all the best of intentions, apparently just does not see or understand that issue from his perspective surrounded by his homies.

At the Utah State Democratic Convention last spring, I bought a political button for three bucks. It is brown and has the words, "I could be illegal." It's subtle, but it makes a very powerful point.

And that's why we have the Fourteenth Amendment.

June 29, 2012
For some good news on Sandstrom's change of heart, click here.


  1. Sandstrom's bill is also clearly unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause (Art. VI) and the specific delegation to Congress "To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization...." (Art. I, Sec. 8, clause 4). This may be the easier way for a court to dispense with it rather than the uglier aspects of possible discrimination of a protected class under the Fourteenth Amendment.

    This is a national problems which is the responsibility of Congress. And it's too bad the perfectly reasonable and "Utah Compact-like" proposal by then President GW Bush and Senator McCain didn't move forward. It was even supported by Congressman Cannon. But, alas, the ultra-conservative anti-illegals crowd of Utah County drove out Cannon and replaced him with Chaffetz on this very issue.

  2. "And as you do, put yourself in the shoes of a legal, US-born or even naturalized, Hispanic citizen." This is exactly what I have been doing ever since the AZ bill, and it terrifies me. My pleas for others to realize this tragic unintended consequence fall on deaf ears. Somehow they always seem to find the few radical hispanics that will go on the radio and profess the virtues of discriminating their own race, it really sickens me.

    It's not actually that surprising, considering the terrible draconian measures we have required of those who have become citizens or are on that path. It sucks, royally, and it makes sense that they would be bitter that others are having an easier time than they did (though those having the "easier time" will probably *never* become citizens). It is not surprising, but it is still sickening. Since when did "I had to suffer great injustices" become a valid justification to impose injustices on others? It's the old grade-school "he started it" mentality. :(

    Now, I just want to close with saying that, yes, the federal government has overriding authority on naturalization, and any rules and requirements to that effect are "supreme law of the land". I don't think, however, that that gives the federal government authority to regulate immigration, at least not restrict it. Heck, I could be in favor of it meaning the federal government has authority to *allow* immigrants to cross borders where states have disallowed it. What I fundamentally have a problem with is declaring individuals illegal by mere situational and locational circumstances. It is perhaps one of the greatest injustices this nation perpetrates that entire classes of people are reduced to sub-human "illegals" by mere virtue of where they were born and where they want to be.

    Sure, if a person trespasses, that is a crime that ought to be prosecuted - but this, as with any other supposedly "bad" thing that the so-called "illegals" do is completely orthogonal to their immigration status. Anybody who trespasses, who wages violent drug wars, who kidnaps, who steals identities, who does any of a number of crimes that are erroneously attached to "illegals" has, simply, committed a crime regardless of where they are from. The immigration status has absolutely no bearing on the criminality of those acts nor on the prosecution of them. It is just very disheartening that a race of people has become the favored and vilified scapegoat of problems not caused by them, but caused by our own horrendous and injust policies, such as the drug war.

    I will stop ranting now. ;)

    I want to recap quickly on the constitution. There is no delegation of authority to restrict peaceful migration of peoples, indeed no such authority ever existed with the people to be delegated in the first place. But I can agree that naturalization can grant the federal government supremacy over the states in *allowing* immigrants to come here.

  3. @vonntrap

    Thanks! This is one area I am close to agreement with my Libertarian friends. My idealism would like to see open borders for the self-evident right of free passage, movement, or travel. My practical side recognizes that the police power inherent to government is going to regulate to some degree, I would just like to see it much more open than it is. And I'll be glad to wave that blue passport above my head if I'm ever overseas and need to get out on that last plane from Tripoli.

    I changed my profile to go a little more incognito. I'm still identified here, but we'll keep it a little less obvious.


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