Ure prepares for a big GOP brouhaha
Rep. David Ure, who serves portions of western Summit County, says an attempt by a Republican colleague in Utah’s House of Representatives to bar undocumented people from legally driving in the state is "shortsighted."
The Kamas Republican could square off on Capitol Hill this month in a high-profile debate about immigration reform with state Rep. Glenn Donnelson, a Republican from North Ogden.
Along with pushing to do away with so-called driving privilege cards for illegal immigrants, Donnelson also wants the Legislature to repeal a law that allows illegal immigrants who attend high school in Utah to enroll in state colleges and universities at the same tuition as Utah residents. "Why are we giving them freebies when we don’t give it to our own people," Donnelson said. Ure, who sponsored bills several years ago that allowed undocumented residents access to driver licenses and cheaper tuition, expects lawmakers to debate Donnelson’s legislation on the House floor early this session. "To do away with the driving privilege card, I think it’s very narrow-minded and shortsighted," Ure said Monday upon learning of Donnelson’s House Bill 64. "I just cannot believe where he’s coming from we’re usually really good friends and we usually really ally up."
Driving privilege cards — which allow undocumented people to drive in Utah but cannot be used for government identification — were introduced last year following an attempt by lawmakers to repeal legislation sponsored by Ure in 1999 that allowed illegal immigrants to receive Utah driver licenses. "[Donnelson] is even doing away with what we did last year," Ure said, adding that he supported driving privilege cards after learning that illegal immigrants had used driver licenses to board airplanes and register to vote. "They’re not going to stop driving. When they get pulled over, they’re going to take the keys out of the ignition and run."
Driving privilege cards encourage illegal immigrants to purchase insurance and allow law enforcement officers to track their driving records, Ure said.
"To revoke that, I won’t support that at all," he added. But many illegal immigrants with driving privilege cards haven’t purchased insurance, Donnelson countered.
"However you look at it, they’re illegal," he said. "Why do we give them a benefit when they’re illegal?"
Illegal immigrants without Social Security numbers shouldn’t be eligible to receive driving privileges in the U.S., Donnelson said. HB 64 would require all driving privilege cards expire Dec. 31, 2006.
"You’ve got to take a stand and say ‘enough is enough,’" Donnelson said.
Meanwhile, Donnelson’s House Bill 7 would repeal legislation sponsored by Ure in 2002 that began allowing illegal immigrants — who attend at least three years of high school in Utah and graduate — to enroll in state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates. This is Donnelson’s third attempt to repeal the law. "It’s against the law," Donnelson said, adding that allowing illegal immigrants to pay cheaper in-state tuition costs to attend Utah colleges discriminates against Americans. "There could be lawsuits."
A group of American students at the University of Utah who pay out-of-state tuition costs are considering suing the state, said Mike Sizer, chairman of Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement.
"Utah is in violation of a federal law," Sizer said, adding that in 1996 Congress made it illegal to charge citizens more for tuition than illegal immigrants.
Last June, an interim legislative committee voted 11-3 in favor of HB 7, Sizer said, adding, "it looks like it has a good chance of going through."
But the Kansas Supreme Court recently rejected claims from college students that allowing undocumented people to pay cheaper tuition rates discriminates against American citizens. The plaintiffs have appealed the case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sizer said.
"If you’re not presently here legally, we shouldn’t be giving you any documentation," he added.
But according to Ure, the court in Kansas asked, "what’s your gripe out-of-state students? This is not offending you, you have no grounds."
Ure says Donnelson’s association with Sizer’s anti-immigration group compelled the representative to run the bills, which he claims are damaging. "He’s taking his marching orders from them," Ure said. Last year, 119 undocumented students capitalized on cheaper in-state tuition in Utah, he added. "Can you put a dollar value on the importance of that 119 students if they graduate from college and then go back and act as mentors in the neighborhoods?" Ure said. "I’m displeased that we’re squawking."
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The Summit County unemployment rate dropped slightly in October, the state Department of Workforce Services reported.