Aug. 27 editorial |

Aug. 27 editorial

Make sure Legislature hears more than one side of immigration story

Members of the Utah Legislature will make a rare appearance in the Park City area tonight. They want to hear residents’ input on a controversial immigration bill, Senate Bill 81, that passed the Legislature this year and could be modified next year before it takes effect in July 2009.

In general, the law forces employers to more closely monitor the immigration status of employees and requires local police and sheriff’s deputies to help enforce immigration laws.

Currently employers must make a reasonable attempt to verify citizenship or work permit status but they are also restricted from discriminating which, some say, puts them in a no-win situation.

As to law enforcement, typically local officers do not deal with immigration issues unless other offenses have been committed, i.e., they won’t stop a car just to check citizenship but if a driver has broken a law they will ask for a valid driver license.

The Legislature’s Immigration Interim Committee will hold an informal hearing tonight (Aug. 27) at 5:30 p.m. at Ecker Hill International School. Public comment is scheduled to begin at 8:15 p.m.

It is our hope that the legislators will hear from a broad cross section of Summit County residents, business owners and immigrants about the challenges they face trying to resolve the myriad issues surrounding immigration.

Without a doubt the current laws are contradictory, unevenly enforced and do not reflect the needs of either employers or immigrants in Summit County. Many local employers rely heavily on immigrant labor. Most, we hope, want to hire legal workers, pay fair wages and conduct all of their business above the table. And we firmly believe that most immigrants want to obtain permission to work legally so they do not live in constant fear of being separated from their families.

So far, though, all of the so-called solutions to illegal immigration like S.B. 81, involve tougher enforcement, more rigid regulations and more draconian penalties rather than offering realistic ways for workers and employers to operate in a more transparent, legal system.

We are quite sure the anti-immigration movement, like the Minute Men who volunteer their time to patrol the border between Mexico and the United States, will be represented at tonight’s hearing. But we also want their strident voices to be balanced with comments from people who want to ensure immigrant workers can obtain legal work permits without having to go underground and by those who want to help employers fill their ranks with legal employees.

We hope, too, that our legislators use that input to build a system where taxes can be fairly collected and redistributed to pay for services needed by immigrant workers and their families. Most of all we want laws that reinforce the value of hard work regardless of one’s accent or nation of origin.

For more information or to submit comments to the committee log on to

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