Saturday, May 29, 2004

Utah's Top Prosecutor Talks to Latinos about Immigration

The Salt Lake Tribune -- Utah's Statewide Newspaper

Utah's top prosecutor discusses immigration issues with Latinos

By Rhina Guidos
The Salt Lake Tribune

Walking a political and semantic tightrope in front of a mostly Latino audience, the state's top federal prosecutor said Friday he doesn't support immigration raids in the workplace, but he also didn't condone illegal immigration, calling life in the United States without legal documents "a house built on sand."
Paul Warner, U.S. attorney for Utah, told of his sons' LDS missions that took them to mingle with Latino families in the United States and in Mexico. To those who attended the meeting of the nonprofit Alianza Latina at the City-County Building, he spoke of his fondness for Latinos.
But Warner said since the attacks of Sept. 11, life for one group of Latinos -- those who enter the country illegally -- will be more difficult as law enforcement casts a wider net for terrorists. The crackdown is leading to more deportations of undocumented workers whose only crime is using false papers to seek a better life.
"I understand what Latinos who are here illegally want," Warner said. "They want to work, they want to feed their children . . . they want a better life for their children. I want the same for my children."
But he has to enforce the law, he said, and since September 2001, raids on such places as the Salt Lake City airport and trucking companies have netted large numbers of undocumented workers. Though not terrorists or felons, they must be prosecuted.
But there are some groups, he said, that want him to prosecute every illegal worker.
"The fact is that even if I wanted to do that, and I don't want to, I don't have the people to do that," he said.
Audience members told Warner that efforts to weed out terrorists also are leading some Latino Americans to distrust authorities. The new policies also result in discrimination against Latinos, they said, along with attacks on them by political hopefuls, some of whom are scaring the community by painting Latinos as terrorist threats.
Daniel Advincula told Warner of being stopped by police three times in one day in February while he and his wife looked for land to build a home in Draper.
Residents reported them as "looking suspicious," Advincula said.
Tony Yapias, director of the State Office of Hispanic Affairs, told him of radio ads in the 3rd Congressional District that he said are being used to scare community members into thinking that Latinos could become terrorists.
Yapias asked him if he knew of any Latino terrorists in Utah.
"I know of no terrorist . . . no terrorist that I have run into had a Latin ethnicity," Warner responded, adding that immigration is a political issue and he wasn't going to take sides.
West Valley resident Carlos Pérez told Warner that Latinos, too, love the United States and they are worried about terrorist attacks.
"We want to cooperate," he said, but immigration efforts are leading to a distrust and gaps between Latinos and law enforcement authorities.
"This is producing a sentiment of xenophobia, like it was once Europe," Pérez said. "And we have to be careful."


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