Salt Lake City — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson joined Inside Sources host Jason Perry on Friday to talk about her recent daylong trip to the El Paso, Texas, and on the broken immigration situation at the US-Mexico border.
Perry asked her why she decided to visit El Paso.
Wilson said she traveled to the border as part of a delegation of the National Association of Counties because federal immigration policy is affecting the situation on the ground in Salt Lake County.
“I just wanted to see for myself. There’s a lot of hyperbole and finger-pointing. I wanted to know what was really going on,” she said.
What can you do about [immigration] as mayor of Salt Lake County, “when the federal government has not been able to [reform] it?” Perry asked.
“We have to keep working to support our population on the ground here [in Salt Lake County],” she said. “We have a growing Latino population. We have people living in the shadows, many of them children who came here not by their own choice. Many are enrolled in the University of Utah.
She cited the work of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans, whose leader is out in the community daily supporting and welcoming the newest residents of Salt Lake County.
She said, “I think I can become a more active participant in a local coalition that will help lobby Congress for change. It’s time for a resolution. I don’t care who the president is; I don’t care who the speaker of the House is or what the party affiliation is. We need to come together.”
“The system has been without reform for far too long,” she said.
She was concerned about a recent Trump administration policy of asking Mexico to shelter asylum-seekers from Central and South America while they await their day in U.S. immigration court.
“These people are waiting for months and months and months. I was told it would be next summer before court cases that were eligible today would actually be reviewed,” Wilson said. “We are now asking Mexico, one of the poorest nations in the world, to shelter these people, fold them into the community.
“It is a failure of our nation, with the resources that we have, with the acceptance that we have in the state and the interest in solving it. I would be more than happy to check a box to raise my own taxes to assure that we are doing our best with this population while we work through this system.
“I just don’t think it’s logical nor fair,” she said, “to pass the buck over to Mexico.”
Wilson said she didn’t think Congress is best set up for the “in-depth work that it takes” to tackle issues surrounding the U.S. immigration system.
“Our academic institutions are better equipped to do it. The county government is probably better equipped,” she said.
“Maybe we could ask Congress to fund a special envoy who comes together locally with specialists, with attorneys and with those who have worked with these communities and give them a six-month timeframe to come up with a real proposal, a bipartisan proposal,” Wilson said.
“One of the things I’m going to try to figure out is how my voice matters now that I’ve had this unique experience,” she said.
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