Saturday, October 04, 2003

Salt Lake City Grapples With Illegal Immigration (ABC News)

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Many of them come to Utah. Latinos are now the largest minority in the country and in Utah. Between legal and illegal immigrants, 19 percent of Salt Lake City, Utah's capital, is now Latino and some area residents aren't very happy about that.
. . . While many Mexicans are making a choice to break the law in hopes of finding work and a better life in America, many U.S. officials are choosing to look the other way. "Any person in any community knows that you can go to just about any job site in the United States, involving construction, or, or in your fields, or in your hotels, and you can make an arrest. We choose not to, simply, we don't have the resources. And, look, I believe that the Hispanic community is critical to Utah," said Robert Flowers, who headed the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command.

Flowers' point is illustrated by the fact that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has 22 agents in Utah, while the state's illegal population is nearly 75,000.

If an illegal immigrant is working in America but otherwise living a law-abiding life, the chances are small that authorities will find and arrest the worker, according to Steve Branch, who heads the INS office in Salt Lake City.

The message being sent here is simply this: the federal government and the state of Utah are looking the other way. The economy needs illegal workers and the authorities are not about to go looking for them. It is a message that resonates deep into Mexico, and Mexicans find it irresistible.

. . . Almost every illegal Mexican worker knows the story of President Ronald Reagan and amnesty. In 1986 President Reagan signed a law that gave amnesty to people who had entered the country and were working illegally.

The law required illegal immigrants to register with the government and provide proof they had been in "continuous unlawful residence" in the country for at least five years.

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