Advocacy Spotlight: The Utah Compact

The Utah Compact pictureBack in 2010, the Utah state legislature was prepared to pass a harmful piece of legislation that would have empowered state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration policy.  Many people thought the language of the bill was particularly xenophobic, and leaders across multiple sectors of society voiced their objections to the bill.  Then, with the momentum of collaboration and goodwill, a document entitled the “Utah Compact” was drafted by a number of business and religious leaders.  The document – in 224 words – contained a simple message based off of five core values, which emphasized family unity, proper integration and inclusion of immigrants, the economic benefits of immigration, and the enforcement of immigration policy as the prerogative of the federal government.  The purpose of the compact was not simply to oppose the bill in the state legislature, but to readjust the tone surrounding immigration policy.

On November 11, 2010, the architects of the compact, as well as prominent leaders from across Utah- including the mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, two former governors, a former Senator, the state attorney general, countless religious leaders, and the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce- gathered in front of the state capitol building to ceremoniously sign their names onto the document.  The Mormon Church, while not an official signee, issued a statement in support for the compact.  The compact also received praise from the New York Times, and one of the main coordinators of the campaign, Jason Mathis, won the White House’s Presidential Champion of Change award.

The effects of the Utah Compact are both grand and far-reaching.  Three months after the official unveiling of the compact, 66 percent of the officials in the state legislature supported comprehensive reform – a swing of nearly 40 percent.  The Utah state legislature then proceeded to scrap the destructive bill, and instead pass other bills, such as a guest worker program for low-skilled workers.  To many leaders across the country, the Utah Compact stands as evidence that with enough collaboration and strategy, it is possible to come up with a humane and commonsense answer to reforming our country’s broken immigration system.

The Utah Compact is a great example of successful advocacy – it provides clear insight into the potential influence of an effective advocacy campaign. The Utah Compact owes its success to the employment of not one strategy, but many.  Some of those strategies include: coalition building; inclusion of well-known and charismatic leaders who champion the message; the creation of a simple message that appeals to a large population; a positive tone to frame the message; the accessibility of the campaign to the public; and the ability of the public to become part of the campaign.

Here is the link to the Utah Compact’s website.  How might a similar initiative make an impact in your community? Let us know your thoughts by contacting advocacy@hias.org.

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