Immigration fight returns to Capitol Hill
A panel of state lawmakers is scheduled today to discuss a controversial immigration measure that resembles a tough new law in Arizona meant to crack down on those who are living in the United States illegally.
State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, an Orem Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would require law enforcement in Utah to investigate the immigration statuses of those who are suspected of committing crimes. Some opponents say the bill would prompt the police to racially profile those whom they encounter.
Summit County resident Moses Rodriguez said the bill is unnecessary because most immigrants abide by the laws. Rodriguez moved to the United States from Mexico when he was a teenager.
"They’re not thieves, stealing stuff or doing bad things," Rodriguez said. "I think that the government needs to be more focused on the criminals. That’s my suggestion."
Rodriguez, who is an American citizen, said a guest-worker program could allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to obtain employment permits while pursuing paths to citizenship.
"That’s a big problem," Rodriguez said. "I think the ones who are already here should stay here."
But illegal immigrants who commit crimes should be deported, he stressed.
"Some are just doing drugs and whatever, and I don’t think it’s good for our own families," Rodriguez said.
He also admitted that some illegal immigrants take advantage of taxpayers while they are in the United States illegally.
"I know it’s bad. A lot of people ask for help, they ask for Medicaid and food stamps," Rodriguez said. "But not everybody is like that. There are so many who don’t do that."
Still, not everyone is against state government taking a tough stance against illegal immigration. Summit County resident Gary Shumway, a politician who has frequently criticized government for its actions on illegal immigration, said most American citizens do not want illegal immigrants living in their communities.
"I think most Americans want to follow the law and they agree with the law and they understand that people coming across the border illegally are not doing the Untied States a favor. They are potentially hurting citizens of the United States," Shumway said. "Not everybody coming across the border wants to come over and make a buck. They are coming across the border, some of them, to do America wrong."
Shumway said he does not support amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"I don’t support giving people who are here illegally a carte blanche to become citizens," he said. "Obviously, a majority of the people who come across the border are probably trying to make a better life for themselves and their family. But that doesn’t justify it."
The legislative Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Interim Committee is scheduled to debate Sandstrom’s bill at the state Capitol today at 9 a.m. The meeting is slated in room 30 of the House building.
State Sen. Allen Christensen, a North Ogden Republican who represents the East Side of Summit County, said he is against granting illegal immigrants amnesty by allowing them to stay in the country.
"We simply cannot do that. All that does is provide a green light. That’s what we’ve done for 30 years is we’ve just winked and we’ve said if you get here, you’re home free," Christensen said. "That is just a slap in the face to all the immigrants who have done it legally."
Christensen said he would vote for Sandstrom’s bill.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, who represents the Park City area, said he has not decided whether he would support the immigration measure.
"The bill is out there, but I think it is going to have a lot of changes," Van Tassell said. "I’m sure it will get worked over quite a bit."
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