Lawmakers pass immigration reform
March 11, 2011
Other states are watching as lawmakers in Utah enter the national immigration debate by approving a guest worker program and Arizona-like enforcement measures for people who are living in the country illegally.
The legislation could require police officers and deputies check the immigration status of those stopped for serious crimes.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, a Democrat who represents a chunk of the Snyderville Basin, said he voted for the controversial guest worker program before voting against it.
Briscoe explained that the final version of House Bill 116 included an enforcement component, which he could not support.
"I voted against all of the immigration-enforcement bills," Briscoe said.
Briscoe also voted against House Bill 497. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom and approved by the Legislature.
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If signed into law by the governor, H.B. 497 could require local officers verify the immigration status of anyone arrested for felonies or class A misdemeanors.
Deputies at the Summit County jail already verify the immigration status of most people booked into the facility, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds explained.
"If you get arrested for a class A misdemeanor in Summit County you get booked," Edmunds said. "Anybody who gets booked into my jail on a class A misdemeanor, their immigration status gets checked and that includes Park City arrestees."
Meanwhile, many people are angry that lawmakers approved the issuance of work permits for people who are in the United States illegally.
If he signs the guest worker bill some conservatives have pledged to push for the ouster of Gov. Gary Herbert.
The measure amounts to an amnesty program for illegal immigrants, said Brian LaFave, founder of Park City Patriots, a group aligned with the Tea Party.
"My biggest problem with the guest worker program is we already have a work visa program. If people want to come to the United States on a work visa all they have to do is go to the consulate in their home country," LaFave said.
In an effort to encourage Herbert to veto H.B. 497, some Latino groups have called for a boycott of businesses in Utah.
But Tony Yapias, a Latino activist in Salt Lake City, said he is against the boycott.
"We learned from Arizona that their boycott didn’t really help anyone. It just hurt them more than anything," Yapias said. "If I felt that we really needed a boycott I would have been the first one who called it."
Legislation for migrant workers
Briscoe voted for a bill that would establish an agreement with a state in Mexico to bring migrant workers into Utah.
"It works legally and it also can legitimately bring in some labor that industries in Utah need," Briscoe said.
The Legislature also approved the measure, House Bill 466, which was on the governor’s desk on Friday.
In-state tuition for immigrants
State lawmakers rejected a bill that could have changed a law that allows some illegal immigrants to receive in-state college tuition if they graduate from high school in Utah.
The passage of House Bill 191 could have meant that some students would no longer qualify for lower tuition rates. The Legislature did not approve the bill.
Driving privilege cards
This year, an effort in the Legislature to repeal driving privilege cards failed. Illegal immigrants who obtain Utah driving privilege cards are allowed to operate motor vehicles in the state.
Senate Bill 138 could place new requirements on those obtaining or renewing the driving permits. Applicants would need to submit fingerprints and a photograph to the state.
The fingerprints would be compared with criminal databases, according to S.B. 138.