Utah Approves Guest Worker Program, But Also Passes Copycat AZ SB1070


Details are yet to be set – but Utah has moved to both de-criminalize undocumented immigrant work and criminalize undocumented immigrants as well! – Make money off of the fields and from detention centers or is it a sane bill? You tell us… – Axel Caballero

Here is the NY Times piece on it –


Utah G.O.P. Adopts Immigration Alternative


In the first move by a state to extend legal recognition to illegal immigrant laborers, the Utah Legislature has passed immigration bills that include a guest worker program that would allow unauthorized foreigners to work legally in the state.

With the immigration package, passed in both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature late Friday, Utah made a sharp break with the hard-line trend in state immigration legislation that has been led by Arizona, which passed a strict enforcement law last April.

Utah’s package includes measures to tighten enforcement against illegal immigrants that echo Arizona’s tough stance — like a requirement that the police check the immigration status of anyone arrested on a felony or a serious misdemeanor charge.

But supporters said the hybrid package offered an alternative to states, including those controlled by Republicans, that are seeking to avoid the costly political polarization and legal challenges that followed Arizona’s law and that also want to recognize the need of some businesses for immigrant labor in spite of high unemployment nationally.

The guest worker bill came after intense lobbying by business and farm groups as well as by some immigrant advocates, and it enjoyed the quiet but all-important endorsement of the Mormon Church. It is likely to raise many of the same constitutional questions as the Arizona law, including whether it intrudes on areas of immigration law reserved exclusively for the federal government. Central provisions of Arizona’s law, known as S. B. 1070, were suspended by federal courts pending a lawsuit by the Obama administration.

But in contrast to Arizona’s approach, Utah lawmakers framed their bill to set up a negotiation, rather than a confrontation, between the governor and the federal authorities. Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican who handily won election in November, is expected to sign the bill.

“Utah is the anti-Arizona,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a group in Washington that favors legislation by Congress to grant legal status to illegal immigrants. “Instead of indulging the fantasy that you can drive thousands of people out of your state, it combines enforcement with the idea that those who are settled should be brought into the system.”

Under one bill approved on Friday, Utah would issue a two-year work permit to illegal immigrants who could prove that they had been living and working in the state. To qualify, immigrants would have to pass a criminal background check and pay fines of up to $2,500.

The bill gives the governor until 2013 to negotiate with federal immigration authorities for a waiver for the guest worker program. Under federal law, it is a violation for an employer to knowingly hire an illegal immigrant. If no waiver has been obtained by then, the guest worker program would go into effect anyway.

Under a separate bill, also approved Friday, officers would be required to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest on a felony or serious misdemeanor charge.

Lawmakers revised that bill to remove terms borrowed from the Arizona law that would have allowed the police to ask immigration questions based on a “reasonable suspicion” that a person they stopped was an illegal immigrant. That provision, among others, was strongly opposed by Latinos in Arizona, who said it would lead to racial profiling.

State Representative Bill Wright, a Republican who was the sponsor of the guest worker bill in the House, said it was intended to be a practical way to deal with illegal immigrants in the state. “I’m a very conservative Republican; I’m not moderate at all,” he said. But, he said, “we literally do not have the ability to remove those who are here illegally.”

The enforcement measure was sponsored by State Representative Stephen Sandstrom, a Republican who has been an outspoken proponent of following Arizona’s lead on immigration.

Many groups in Utah hoped to avoid the expense and furor provoked by Arizona’s bill. In November, a range of groups signed a proposal called the Utah Compact, which laid out principles that included respect for the law but also supported a free-market business approach and opposed measures that would separate families by deportation. It was signed by the Salt Lake Chamber, a statewide business group; the Roman Catholic Church; the Salt Lake City Police Department and mayor’s office; and local immigration advocate groups.

The Mormon Church, which had been cautious on the issue, did not sign the compact but immediately endorsed it.

Read more via NY Times

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