Before Gov. Gary Herbert signed a concurrent resolution on Monday, he said a few words about the need for inclusion and civility. Utah, Herbert noted, a state that was founded by a persecuted religious group, has been enriched by its newcomers.
“I appreciate the fact that our state is one that is diverse,” he said. “It adds a lot of different fabric to the culture of Utah, the fact that we so many languages here, about 120-plus.”
Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Salt Lake City, was the primary sponsor for Concurrent Resolution 6, Guarding the Civil Liberties and Freedoms for All American People.
Shiozawa’s grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Japan and settled in Helper to raise his family and work on the railroad. Four of his sons fought in World War II, including one who died in Italy.
“The proudest day my grandfather says in his life was the day he became an American citizen,” Shiozawa said.
Herbert summarized the resolution’s aim is to affirm “the community's resolve to protect the civil liberties and religious freedoms and the dignity of all Americans, to our legal immigrants and to those who are refugees that are seeking asylum, looking for a better place to live and raise their family.”
The governor’s office invited more than 70 religious and community leaders to attend the signing in the Gold Room at the State Capitol. The Bulbuli Children’s Choir, from the Islamic Society of the Bosniaks, performed two numbers, including “America the Beautiful.”
“I do believe that Utah is the best place to live and to raise a family and to do business,” Herbert said. “That culmination really excels here in Utah and gives us a great quality of life that we enjoy today and we ought to not take that for granted.”
He also noted the political tone surrounding topics such as immigration should be softened.
A common mantra for Herbert, he said the country’s goodness—how citizens treat one another—will determine its greatness.
“I think that’s a big concern for us in today’s environment, not only in business but certainly in politics,” he said. “The lack of civility is a concern for all of us.”
Other than to say it’s a scourge on both sides of the aisle, Herbert didn’t direct his political criticism at any specific target—certainly not toward President Donald Trump, who deployed name-calling tactics in the primary and general elections.
Indeed, several aspects of the concurrent resolution indirectly speak to policy or practice that Trump opponents abhor.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, pundits credit an emboldening of the alt-right—a white nationalist movement that rallied behind the president. This could help explain why Politico, and others, have reported a recent rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
Utah’s lone Jewish lawmaker, Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who co-sponsored the resolution, pointed out that threats have been made to national and local Jewish community centers. Other minority groups have also been victimized, she added.
“These actions are clearly meant to spread fear and division, and they are becoming all too common in our society,” she said. “We must speak out, and not let these despicable acts and hateful rhetoric become normalized in our society.”
Trump’s attempted refugee bans were criticized for being anti-Muslim.
Herbert, who tepidly supported Trump last fall, said Utah would continue to welcome refugees and immigrants.