Experts say fear dominates immigration debate

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

Fear and misconceptions about the topic of immigration in the United States are preventing policy makers and the public from solving problems that surround immigration, a group of experts said Monday.

At a forum held by the International Center, a panel of guests discussed the costs and benefits of immigration as well as problems hampering debate about the issue.

“Over the last few years, immigration has taken on great importance as a political issue,” said Gerardo Okhuysen, the business professor who moderated the forum. “Much of the communication on immigration is lost in heated argument, and we wanted to try with this panel to bring the conversation back.”

The forum was made up of three panelists: Salvador Jimenez, the Mexican consul in Utah; Barbara Melendez, who works as an adjunct professor of immigration law at Brigham Young University; and Luz Robles, who was the first director of the State Office of Ethnic Affairs under Gov. Jon Huntsman.

At first glance, the topic of immigration is overwhelming, and the public is feeding off of fear and misinterpretation of data that is fueling the fires of confusion, Melendez said.

There is a fear that immigrants are taking jobs, lowering wages and draining social security, she said, but this fear is the result of misinterpretations and the skewing of economic data.

“The immigration issue needs to be handled in an orderly, legal and humane way by both the Mexican and American governments,” Jimenez said. “It should be clear we do not support undocumented migration of any sort to any country, and we should strive towards a humane and safe way for people to immigrate.”

Anjali Pai Hammond, assistant director for outreach and development at the International Center, said the goal of these forums is to provide education and dialogue for the university and the public on international issues.

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