Deseret Morning News, Jun. 23
Sometimes, retreat is the better part of valor. And last Friday, ProjectUSA, a national political action organization, chose the better part by backing away from its plan to screen people for citizenship at the polls. The notion was to keep illegals from voting.
It was a wrong-headed notion. Even die-hards opposed to illegal immigration could see the idea had overtones reminiscent of the poll taxes and poll tests that white voters once used in the South to discourage black voters. And once you start screening voters based on color or family name, how long before America is no longer America?
Protestations to the contrary, the plan smacked of racism and narrow-mindedness. But more than that, it showcased an almost breathtaking ignorance that many anti-immigration activists have of the undocumented workers in America. Anyone who has studied the issue for more than 10 minutes knows that illegal aliens are too timid to vote. They barely dare reveal their names to their next-door neighbors. And they don’t contribute anything substantial to political campaigns. They are too busy trying to keep milk in the refrigerator and bread on the table.
The only explanation for the idea is it was proposed to intimidate legal voters and favor one candidate over another.
The heavy-handed tactic of screening voters also shows how high the political rhetoric has risen over this issue, especially in Utah’s 3rd District. It is all heat and no light. For that reason, it is time for all involved to dial back on the passion and draw more on compassion.
Yes, illegal immigration is a problem; but it is a problem with more shades and colors than militants would have Utah’s residents believe. Cool heads, study, planning and careful policy are called for, not zealotry.
The fact ProjectUSA backed away from its initial plan shows that the group can sense the direction of the political winds. And Utahns, who for the most part are known for their fair play and empathy, let it be known that badgering voters, especially voters who are legal and law-abiding, does not wash.
Now, perhaps, sanity can prevail. Salem, Utah, is not Salem, Mass., of the 17th century. The world is a much different place, a more complicated place. Yet it is also a more understanding place.
In their hearts, Utahns know this.
We urge civility, not civil war, in dealing with the issue of illegal immigration in the state.