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U.S. Reps. Moore, Curtis, Owens throw backing to immigration overhaul plan

April 1, 2021

WASHINGTON — Three of Utah’s four U.S. House members are throwing their support behind the GOP plan put forward by U.S. Rep. Maria Salazar to address undocumented immigrants and illegal immigration.

The proposal, the GOP response to President Joe Biden’s immigration reform plan, would create a means for undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States and potentially attain legal status, among other things. It comes amid a heightened national focus over illegal border crossings and an apparent surge in U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Pew Research Center.

“I am proud to partner with you and my colleagues on meaningful and compassionate immigration reforms that keep families together, provide pathways for dreamers and give a voice to the voiceless,” Rep. John Curtis of Provo said in a tweet.

Curtis and U.S. Reps. Blake Moore and Burgess Owens appeared with Salazar, a Florida Republican, and several other GOP lawmakers at a press conference on Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol to tout her plan, called the Dignity proposal. The plan is a response to the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the immigration system overhaul proposed by Biden.

Salazar’s proposal puts a big focus on beefing up U.S. border security, according to a draft summary. But it would also give “dreamers,” younger undocumented immigrants brought illegally to their country by their parents, “immediate legal status.” That group has been a particular focus of the debate over immigration reform.

Moreover, her plan would allow undocumented immigrants who pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, stay employed and pay a fine to get work visas. It also creates a pathway to permanent resident status for them.

“Immigration reform is a great opportunity for collaboration, and I believe in aspirational, pro-growth and inclusive proposals that will both secure and strengthen our country,” Moore, the 1st District representative, said at the conference. “Any bills considered by Congress should offer functional and compassionate solutions while protecting American jobs. I am proud to join with my colleagues to craft commonsense, workable reforms that streamline the guest worker visa process, strengthen our border security, support the American workforce and more.”

In a statement to the Standard-Examiner later Wednesday, Owens, the 4th District representative, put a big focus on border security, a standard GOP call. But, as proposed in Salazar’s plan, he’s also open to creating a means to allow at least some undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

“For too long, we’ve taken an ‘all or nothing’ approach to immigration reform in this country, and for too long, we have gotten ‘nothing,’” Owens said. “It is time to think of solutions that are fair, dignified and provide a stable workforce. To me, meaningful policies involve securing the border and ensuring a dignified path to citizenship while also enforcing the law and prioritizing safety.”

In his comments at Wednesday’s press conference, Curtis, who represents Utah’s 3rd District, referenced the Utah Compact on Immigration, a document backed by a cross-section of Utah leaders and officials meant to serve as a guiding document in the debate over immigration reform. The compact calls for a “humane approach” to reform that focuses on keeping families together, among other things.

The compact “told us to do exactly what we’re doing today — solve these problems, keep families together and be compassionate,” Curtis said.

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, Utah’s 2nd District representative, did not appear at Wednesday’s event.

Salazar said her plan helps “bring dignity and redemption” to the undocumented population. “We have a crisis on our southern border, children are being trafficked and we must do everything possible to fix our immigration system once and for all,” she said.

Border security has been an intense focus of attention of late in the wake of Biden’s moves away from some of the measures touted by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, including additional work on the U.S. border wall. Some GOPers have accused Biden of making it easier for undocumented immigrants to cross into the United States.

“We are facing a serious crisis at our southern border that is threatening the safety of Americans. Too many drugs, criminals and child sex traffickers are flowing into our country, and the Biden administration is doing nothing to stop the chaos,” Owens said.

Biden’s immigration reform proposal would create a “roadmap to citizenship” for certain undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes. It would aim to clear backlogs of those waiting for family- and employment-based U.S. visas and also contains provisions to beef up border security via use of technology. Furthermore, it would bolster assistance to counter corruption, violence and poverty in Central America, which causes many from the region to flee to the United States.