OGDEN -- Immigration issues may be improved by following the golden rule and changing laws to make more sense.
Those were largely the sentiments Wednesday night at a panel discussion, held at the Wildcat Theater in Weber State University's Shepherd Union Building, centering on immigration.
The discussion was sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ogden.
"Focus on commonalities, and when you hear disparaging things, speak up," said Rob Reynolds, professor of sociology at WSU, when asked to talk about the solution.
"We have to follow the rule of law," said Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, who represents District 7.
"Our rule of law right now is broken."
Wilcox toured Mexico as part of a focus group to help Utah lawmakers decide how to address the issue.
But, he said, states can't legally address immigration. He believes it has to be addressed through the federal government.
He said he was surprised to learn of crops that won't be harvested in the United States because of visa problems in getting the workers needed by farmers.
Wilcox asked residents to focus on encouraging federal elected representatives to change the laws.
"We have to be focused on our federal representatives," he said. "We have to have representatives at the federal level who are really committed to solving the problem."
"Immigration is a problem of bad law and not bad people," said Mark Alvarez, a lawyer who has lived in Mexico and Spain.
He said changing the laws and finding ways to help Mexico improve its economic situation is key.
"We need international cooperation," he said. "To seriously address the immigration issue, we need bi-national or international cooperation."
In contrast, Alvarez said, laws that changed the way corn imports were allowed into the United States put many thousands of people in Mexico out of work.
Alvarez said the path to change will start by educating others.
He said those hostile toward people from Mexico will be softened by hearing individual stories. Those who are ignorant about the immigration problems may be persuaded about the seriousness of the problem if given economic statistics.
Several of the panelists agreed that people often immigrate to find jobs and wouldn't do so if they had them in their own countries.
The Rev. Pablo Ramos, canon for Latino ministries in the Episcopal Diocese, said he wants to send a message to business owners that they need to worry about more than just how much money they can make.
"Take care of the employees," he said. "They have to have what they need to be good citizens."
The Rev. Theresa Novak, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ogden, encouraged people to stop the demonization of others and to follow the golden rule.
"If it's not immigrants, it's gay people, it's the 1 percent, it's business people," she said. "I think we can stop this in all our interactions."
Novak said addressing problems such as immigration issues is central to her faith.
"We take seriously the idea that all life is sacred and that there is a spark of the divine in each and every one of us," she said. "The God that many of us believe in loves everyone, no matter who they are or where they came from.
"Our task in the world is to love our neighbors, whoever they might be, and to follow the golden rule, a sentiment expressed by virtually every religious tradition in the world."
Novak quoted from the Torah in Leviticus 19:33: "When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall do them no wrong," she said.
"Love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt," she said, quoting verse 34.
The panelists pointed to an increasingly global economy and a world where the laws and actions in one country affect people in another.
Ramos talked about a 75-year dictatorship in Mexico that was not challenged by the United States. He said current problems likely could have been avoided if this country had worked to end the dictatorship.
He said that government hindered the economy.
"In Mexico, corruption is a way to survive," he said. "They need to find a way to feed their families. Corruption is not in our DNA."