Leaders from political, religious and business arenas have stepped up to discuss immigration and its impact on the economy at the Mountain West Immigration Summit in Salt Lake City in the light of the ever increasing immigration laws that are being brought out by different states. The general atmosphere in the summit has been to lighten tough immigration rules and bring about a balance in regulations being imposed on businesses. Participants generally opposed the strict enforcement laws passed in Alabama and Arizona. Instead, they pointed to bills passed in Utah that included an enforcement law modeled on Arizona’s but balanced by a program that will allow illegal immigrants to work and pay taxes in Utah if they register with the state. Discussions at the summit will focus on how immigration affects the economy, security and faith.

The Utah guest-worker program was a key component of the Utah Compact, an initiative pushed as a compassionate way to handle immigration. “The success of the Utah Compact has put the spotlight on Utah,” said Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. “Now we have an opportunity to affect the national immigration debate in a really positive way.” Last year people from across the community came to sign the Utah Compact a statement to influence the tone of the immigration debate. It urges the public and leaders to commit to a rational debate on immigration. Shurtleff says it’s already done that here, and in other states. The Compact urges the public and leaders to commit to a rational debate on immigration. The compact declares five principles to guide the immigration debate, among them a commitment to federal, rather than state solutions, and a focus on keeping families together.

Syndicated columnist and keynote speaker Ruben Navarrette thinks Utah’s legislature should use the compact as a model for future legislation. And he hopes the principles will reduce the harshness of the rhetoric nationwide.