Jim McConkie (801) 916-1830
Parker and McConkie
5664 South Green Street (3rd Floor)
Salt Lake City, Utah 84123
Start time 11:00 A.M.
A diverse, non-partisan group of attorneys and other professionals from around the state announced the formation of the Refugee Justice League of Utah today, an organization dedicated to promoting and defending the civil, religious, and Constitutional rights of persons who are discriminated against on the basis of their religious beliefs and national origins. They will oppose and restrictions on the rights of refugees such as mandatory registration and any other laws that curtail the rights and privileges of people who live here.
Jim McConkie, a well known civil rights attorney and one of the League's founding members, stated that “It is important that refugees and immigrants who have escaped terrible conditions in war-torn countries know that they are safe and welcome here in Utah and that we value their presence as well as the contributions they make to our community. They need to know that they have friends who are willing to help them live peacefully in their new homes and communities, preserve their cultural preferences, and practice their religious devotions openly without restrictions or harassment.” He said this is particularly appropriate “in a state founded by those who fled persecution and sought religious freedom. These basic rights define the type of safe, welcoming community that Utah should be."
Mr. McConkie said, “Some in our community have 1) been threatened with removal of their headscarves (hijabs); 2) been accosted with gross profanity; 3) been physically threatened; 4) had their property damaged; 5) had their children bullied in school; 6) been harassed at work by co-workers; and 7) been menaced by strangers in public settings. This is unacceptable, intolerable and legally actionable.” Mr. McConkie explained that “in situations where such abuses occur, League member or other Utah attorneys will donate their time to represent victims and help them seek justice against those who cause emotional distress, physical harm, property damage or who otherwise deprive them their inalienable rights to which all people are entitled.”
Mr. McConkie said that “support for the League has come from members of religous and ethnic minorities as well as from a broad cross section of government, political, religious and civic leaders. It is clear that harsh treatment or discrimination against people in our state do not reflect the moral values held by the vast majority of Utahns.”
Founding league member Brad Parker, a well known trial lawyer, said that "Our Utah State Constitution, a constitution drafted by men and women who crossed the plains to themselves find refuge from persecution, guarantees the right of all people, to enjoy and defend their lives and liberties; ... to worship according to the dictates of their consciences and to communicate freely their thoughts and opinions. These founding principals are as important today as they were when Utah became a state."
Mr. Parker said "Our constitution and laws are generally an expression of who we want to be and how we want to live in our state. As a people, our laws express that we want our state to be a welcoming state. With rare exception, those who seek refuge here make our state stronger and more diverse."
"Both nationally and locally, we have enacted hate crime statutes and non-discrimination requirements, that reflect these community values," Mr. Parker explained. "Those whose choose to harass and accost instead of choosing to help and assist should stop. Harassment and discrimination are not only contrary to our moral values, they are illegal," Mr. Parker said.
Mr. Parker said that “members of the League will teach classes for refugees and immigrants to help them better understand and appreciate their rights. As they learn about how the law protects the we hope they will feel more secure in the workplace and in their neighborhoods.
Mr. McConkie emphasized that, “This is not a partisan effort. Members of the Refugee Justice League of Utah are members of various political parties and hold differing viewpoints on many subjects. However, there is one thing that all of the members agree on and that is that refugees in our community deserve our help, respect and friendship.”
Mr. Alex Evans, another founding member of the League and an attorney who has successfully argued a number of cases before the Utah Supreme Court, said “attorneys from the Refugee Justice League of Utah will soon be contacting attorneys in other states to encourage them to organize Refugee Justice Leagues in their own states in an effort to ensure that the League’s ideals expand beyond the State of Utah and to strengthen the solidarity between those individuals who wish to defend the values that form the basis of our union.”