Weekly Diaspora: Arizona Pushing Undocumented to Surrounding States

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Stricter immigration enforcement and reduced economic opportunities in Arizona has pushed many undocumented immigrants out of the state to look for work.

While restrictionist lawmakers, whose stated objective over the last year has been to drive attrition through enforcement, are satisfied, it’s not exactly the outcome they’ve been waiting for. Rather than return to their home countries, most immigrants are instead relocating to surrounding states — a trend that’s prompting legislators in other states to approach immigration reform in radically different ways.

Oklahoma Absorbs Arizona Emigrants

Oklahama is experiencing a considerable influx of undocumented immigrants fleeing Arizona,according to Kari Lydersen at Working In These Times. The rising immigrant population has created friction among residents, some of whom believe that undocumented migrants are taking jobs away from Oklahomans. In response, state lawmakers have introduced a bill known as “Arizona Plus,” which incorporates many of Arizona’s more controversial laws, in an effort to expel immigrants in much the same way that Arizona’s existing immigrations laws attempt to do. Lydersen explains:

State Senator Ralph Shortey (R) and Shannon Clark, a Tulsa police officer in charge of enforcing the city’s 287(g) immigration program, said workers including masons and tile workers have been greatly affected by the influx of immigrant workers from Arizona. Employers and civil rights leaders have decried the proposed Arizona Plus measure and other recently introduced anti-immigrant laws, saying that immigrants provide a crucial part of the state’s workforce, especially in areas with otherwise aging and declining populations.

There remains disagreement about the actual economic impacts of unauthorized immigration. As state Senator Andrew Rice (D) told Lydersen, many of Oklahoma’s incoming immigrants are assuming low-wage jobs that citizens are not even bothering to apply for.

Immigrants are an economic boon

Of course, numerous studies demonstrate that immigration actually bolsters economies rather than depressing them, effectively driving wages up and creating opportunities for American workers to move into more highly skilled fields, as Mikhail Zinshteyn of Campus Progress explains:

A study co-authored by George Borjas…shows without new waves of immigration, legal or otherwise, there would be far fewer businesses operating today because of an inadequate labor market. His partner on the paper, Lawrence F. Katz, co-authoredanother study that showed income inequality in the bottom half of the economic ladder has not increased since the 1980s—meaning the huge spike in undocumented immigrants since 1990 has had no statistical effect on the economic fortunes of the Americans they allegedly affect.

Facts notwithstanding, pitting undocumented laborers against low-income American workers is a time-tested tactic of anti-immigrant politicos. It’s effective too, even though — as Zinshteyn notes — many of its proponents also support myriad other policies that directly hurt low-income American laborers.

Utah proposes guest worker program for undocumented migrants

Meanwhile Utah’s legislature is proposing to handle unauthorized immigration rather differently. New America Media reports that state lawmakers passed a bill last week that seeks to legalize and integrate undocumented laborers into the state’s workforce. The measure would create two-year work visas for undocumented Mexican immigrants without a criminal record and their families, for fees ranging from $1,000-$2,500. Lawmakers hope to demonstrate that Utah, which is home to 110,000 undocumented immigrants, is a safer place for migrants than Arizona.

Immigrant rights advocates are not as enthusiastic, however. Colorlines.com’s Julianne Hing notesthat the Utah legislature also passed enforcement and employer sanctions measures last week, which — while less draconian than Arizona’s — nevertheless do their part to marginalize and oppress undocumented immigrants. Hing adds:

[Activists] argue that the benefits of the guest worker program will not be enough to mitigate the harm of harsh enforcement measures that will almost certainly lead to more exploitation and deportation.

Regardless, many others are lauding Utah’s efforts to implement some kind of reform that legalizes undocumented immigrants living in the United States — particularly as Congress has yet to move forward with any attempt at comprehensive immigration reform.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Democracy in Utah: Collecting Ballot Initiative Signatures Online

A short story of something unique taking shape in Utah.

For 2010, Utah has two notable ballot initiatives circulating.

The first by Utahns for Ethical Government, intended to create an independent commission for ethics reform, has garnered public popularity in response to a legislature lethargic and arrogant when responding to blatant ethics violations in previous years.  The second, Fair Boundaries, an initiative aimed at similar independence in the coming redistricting of the state, has met with a tepid response, thanks mostly to the same hubris from state legislators directly responsible for the ethics initiative.

In short, the ethics initiative has them frightened, and even attempting to do some of what the initiative would achieve in their own way in the legislative session beginning in a few days, in the hopes they will undermine support for the UEG initiative by tossing the public a superficial bone.  The Fair Boundaries initiative, they have ignored, and panned, despite support from previous Republican representatives and Gov's, as well as the Utah State Democratic Party, and numerous grassroots and open government organizations.

In response, proponents of both initiatives and public engagement in general, have created a tool -- completely allowed by Utah ballot initiative signature gathering guidelines -- to collect signatures online, and we need your help.

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Exploring Public-Private Partnerships: Envision Utah

Today at the US Center at COP-15, the US delegation to the conference gave a presentation on the role of public transit in reducing carbon emissions in the United States. In truth, we are far behind much of the rest of the world in our development of a sustainable eco-friendly public transportation infrastructure.  Still there are regions here in the country that have begun looking at how to best manage their area's long-term growth. Portland's success is well known but another metro area that is doing some rather interesting things is Salt Lake City and the Greater Wasatch Area.

In the presentation today, Utah Transit CEO John Inglish described how, through a participatory process called "Envision Utah," residents of Salt Lake City foresaw growth and economic development around new light rail transit lines. Envision Utah is one of these public-private partnerships that I like to tout and highlight. His presentation thus affords me the opportunity to provide a short overview of the project.

Back in the mid 1990s, demographic studies projected the region growing from 1.6 million residents in 1998 to more than 2.2 million by 2020 and more than 5 million by 2050. The project arose out of an effort to educate the public, policy-makers and other decision-makers and stakeholders about the issues and consequences associated with rapid growth in the greater Salt Lake City metropolitan area.  Today, Envision Utah has become a model for regional planning in the United States.

A public-private group was formed in 1996 and a year later Envision Utah began conducting public values research, holding over 200 workshops, and listening to the concerns more than 20,000 residents in various fora between 1997 and 1999.  Out of these emerged visions of Utah developed by Utahns. The Envision Utah project included the development and modeling of four different regional growth scenarios that clearly illustrated the consequences of varying growth patterns and differentiated transportation infrastructure investments. The scenarios ranged from a low-density alternative with predominantly auto-oriented development to a high-density transit-oriented alternative with more compact growth and higher levels of infill and redevelopment. Extensive public outreach formed the foundation of a Quality Growth Strategy (QGS) for the region based on voluntary, locally-implemented, market-based solutions. The QGS was adopted by the Utah State Legislature in 1999 and it has help to inform regional and local decisions ever since.

Among the groups that came together to form this public-private partnership were Governor's Office of Utah, cities and counties along the Wasatch Front, the Utah Transit Authority, Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, The Nature Conservancy, Kennecott Land Development, Economic Development Corp. of Utah, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and KSL Television in addition to thousands of citizens.  As a neutral facilitator, Envision Utah brought together residents, elected officials, developers, conservationists, business leaders, and other interested parties to make informed decisions about how the area should grow.

Most people don't think of Utah as a state with urban problems but surprisingly Utah is the nation's sixth most urban state in part because 80 percent of the population lives in the Salt Lake City metro region and as that region began to experience hyper-growth, civic leaders began to worry about the impact of unchecked and largely unplanned growth. Envision Utah used scenario analysis and public involvement to develop a strategy to help preserve critical lands, promote water conservation and clean air, improve region-wide transportation systems, and provide housing options for residents. It's a model worth studying. For a more complete history of this public-private partnership, please read Envision Utah: A Partnership for Quality Growth (pdf).

Finally, here's an interview from the Policy Consensus Initiative with Robert Grow, founder of Envision Utah. I'll add that Jon Hunstman, the former Governor of Utah and the current US Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, is a former Chair of the group. It's another reason why I think Jon Huntsman might make a formidable candidate come 2016. Then again, he may be too moderate or too progressive for the GOP.

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Sutherland Institute: Utah's progress on LGBT rights is based on illusion

LDS Apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:  Salt Lake City gay-rights measures could work statewide.

Utah's Sutherland Institute responds:

As a public relations opportunity, the LDS Church's statement before the Salt Lake City Council may assuage the minds and soften the hearts of advocates of "gay rights" in Utah. As a policy statement, it is problematic. The approved ordinances before the Salt Lake City Council are unsound in principle, clarity, and effect.

We, once again, call on the Utah State Legislature to overturn these local ordinances on the basis of sound public policy.

Sutherland's president, Paul Mero:  The Gloves Must Come Off
Sexual orientation is an illusion. Your idea of rights is an illusion. Your equality is illusory.

Complete transcript after the break.

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How Obama Can Win Utah (Without a 20% National Victory)

By: Inoljt, http://thepolitikalblog.wordpress.com/

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Democratic candidates in Utah must feel as if they're facing an impossible task. The state is often considered the most far-right Republican stronghold in the United States. Winning Utah is akin to slaying a mighty dragon with only a bow as one's chosen weapon.

Like all dragons, however, Utah has a weak spot. The year 2012 may be a ripe time for Obama to shoot an arrow through it.

The majority of Utah's voters are Mormon; the religion is a heavy influence on daily life in the state. The vast majority of Mormons are also conservative, because Mormonism is an inherently conservative beast. In every presidential election so far, Mormons have proved to be strongly Republican.

Mormons like to think of themselves as average, normal Americans. They're good people. They help with the community. They love their children and teach them traditional values. Nobody cares if they have a different religion.

Except many people do care very much indeed, especially the type of person who tends to vote Republican. Many would never vote for a Mormon.

Imagine the following scenario, below the flip.

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