The recently convened Utah Commission on MIgration and Immigration has an internal spat on its hands and neither of the parties involved appear to be backing down.
In one corner is Janalee Tobias, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration. In the other is Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think-tank.
Watching via a string of cc'd emails - the entire 27-member commission that includes House Speaker Becky Lockhart, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and outgoing Minority Leader David Litvack.
It began when Tobias, at the last meeting on April 2, suggested the commission take input through emails from the public on illegal immigration. Mero, however, wanted none of that.
So Tobias sent the following email out:
"Thanks for welcoming Dana and I to the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration. Yesterday, some of you expressed concerns about getting too much e-mail and not having staff or funds for someone to review a twitter account. We took the liberty of creating a Facebook Page: Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration. On this site, we posted on the "wall" for citizens to post their ideas and comments and told them that members of the commission would review this Facebook page. You're welcome to join the group and get an idea of what citizens' concerns are about immigration and migration. We asked people not to debate on this Facebook pageâ¦it is a place for ideas and suggestions and other feedback."
But the Facebook page was shut down after Tobias was told the commission needed to have an action like that put on the agenda and voted on first.
Even after it was shut down, Mero decided to take a swing anyway.
"Thank you, ladies, for your cheerful enthusiasm. Speaking only for myself, a Facebook page is fine for sharing pictures of my grand babies and other associational sentiments but is about as far away from helpful to the purposes of the Commission as we can get. I offer this insight as the one who did express in our last meeting that not only have I had enough random email from "citizen experts" about immigrants living in Utah, I will oppose any attempts to open pathways for this sort of input into the Commission. Again, I speak only for myself in this emailâ¦knowing full well, and no doubt, that my words will end up on some nativist's hate-filled web site," Mero wrote.
He went on to explain how he believed the commission wasn't designed to undermine HB116, Utah's controversial guest worker law and said he only wanted information that would improve public policy. Mero, one of the signers of The Utah Compact, has been unvarnished in his criticism of those opposing the compact or seeking enforcement-only solutions to the immigration issue.
Mero ended his response with another shot at Tobias.
"Is there more information to be had? Of course, and I welcome it. But this note is simply my way of communicating that the time of Commission members is precious and I'll pushback on any efforts to use the brief meetings we have to entertain any agenda, any "concerns," that even sound, in the slightest, like they were born in the crazed minds of a nativist community of people who already have more than sufficiently expressed their views across the Internet, through email and, unfortunately in many cases, in person to me. In short, ladies, thank you for your enthusiastic efforts but, no, I don't care what Facebook has to say," Mero wrote.
In Round Two, Tobias called Mero's email "an unpleasant surprise" and chastised him before leaving for Idaho for her mom's surgery.
"If you want, I'd be happy to bake you some homemade bread and talk about this," Tobias wrote. " Afterall, if I recall correctly, that's what women should be doing. You know, staying home and caring for a quiver full of children. That's basically what I've been doing all these yearsâ¦and fighting for constitutional freedoms."
Mero, who wished her mom well, responded shortly: "No need to reply any more than you have. I can tell you got my point. I certainly get yours."
But Tobias wasn't done. In Round Three, she acknowledged her mom was "a tuffie" and then questioned why there were no pictures of grandchildren on Sutherland's Facebook page.
"I could not find any pictures of grandkids posted on The Sutherland Institute facebook page," she wrote. " Is there a possibility that someone may have commandeered your site? Here's a line from an earlier e-mail you sent out to this commission:
Mero didn't respond.
The commission is scheduled to meet at the Capitol on June 4.