Gov. Spencer Cox discussed issues of immigration and his motivations for holding a Latino Town Hall later this month during his monthly PBS news conference on Thursday.
"We have got to fix immigration in this country. It is absolutely maddening to me that politicians in Washington, D.C., have put their own self-interest ahead of solving what is the easiest of the most controversial problems in our nation to solve," Cox told reporters. "If you were to listen to the 10 most controversial issues in our country, this is the one that has by far the most bipartisan support."
He stressed that securing the border and fixing the legal immigration system are not mutually exclusive goals and that he plans to work with other governors on immigration when he heads up the National Governors Association next year. Cox expressed sympathy for border-state governors, who, he said, bear an unfair burden when it comes to illegal immigration.
"They carry an enormous burden, and they deserve more support. If we're not going to fix it, then we all have to be involved in helping them. Now, whether busing, flying migrants — obviously I don't think we should be doing that without their understanding of where they're going," he said.
"I don't know exactly what happened with that. I believe in good policy and getting attention, so this is something we should all be working together on and trying to figure out. But some of those states that don't have migrants coming in need to bear some of that cost, some of that burden. And maybe if they did, maybe their senators would be much more interested in actually solving the problem."
Latino Town Hall
Cox is holding his first Latino Town Hall as governor on Monday, Oct. 24. When asked about his motivations for the event, Cox told reporters that this will be his first opportunity to do so as governor. He is currently a year and almost 10 months into his first term.
"We have a very large Latino population here in our state," Cox said, citing Census data that show 16% of Utah's population is Latino. "We have some incredible leaders there. Sometimes I know they feel a little disconnected from government, and we've had that conversation before. I want to make sure that the citizens of Utah — no matter what their background is — that they feel like they are a part of Utah."
Cox said he held a similar event when he served as lieutenant governor. The 2019 event was criticized by some Latino leaders because it included Republican lawmakers but left out the state's Latina lawmakers, all three of whom were Democrats.
"It was a Republican-sponsored event, but the Facebook ads didn't say that," Rep. Angela Romero told the Salt Lake Tribune at the time. "I applaud Republicans for trying to reach out to Latinos, but the way they did it was misleading. To advertise it as a first Latino town hall and then not include your Latino elected officials, I think, is a disservice to the community."
Cox also said he wants to connect with Latinos, regardless of party affiliation, and hopes to show there is room for Latinos in the Republican party.
"I'm a conservative Republican — I don't shy away from that — but as governor, my job is to represent everyone in the state, not just conservative Republicans, he said. "I also happen to believe, from the time I lived in Mexico, that many more of our Latinos share the same values that I do and would make wonderful Republicans. So I'm going to do everything I can to reach out to them and show them that there's room for them in my party as well."