A new Utah immigration reform bill, sponsored by state Rep. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, and written with the help of the conservative group, the Sutherland Institute, is a fascinating alternative to another immigration bill that mostly copies Arizona's controversial law.
Robles' bill would require illegals in Utah to obtain a state permit card that allows them to work and live here. There would be an A card, for adult illegals who have been here more than 18 months, and a B card for new illegals who can prove they have a job here. There is no promise of eventual citizenship. The photo cards would have a $500 fee and be administered by the Utah Department of Public Safety. Proficiency in English -- within a year -- and a clean criminal record are requirements to have the card.
If an illegal, lawfully stopped by an officer, fails to show a law enforcement officer, he or she can be photographed, fingerprinted and charged with a class C misdemeanor; or a class B misdemeanor if there is refusal to be photographed or fingerprinted. Businesses who hire illegals would have to verify that they have the state card.
Frankly, this seems to us a better solution to imigration reform than Orem Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's Arizona-style bill. The Robles/Sutherland Institute bill gets the illegals out of the shadows and allows state officials to know who and where they are. It also provides a system where illegals would come to work only when there is an economic need for their services. And it would stop businesses from exploiting illegals who work for them.
It's likely that extremists of the right -- who want to deport all illegals -- and the same on the left -- who seek what basically amounts to amnesty -- will oppose Robles' bill. That's one reason we like some of the ideas in it. We desperately need a moderate immigration reform bill that keeps track of illegals, treats them with dignity, and provides a way to get criminals out of the country.
There is one potential hurdle, though. The Robles/Sutherland Institute bill calls for Gov. Gary Herbert to petition the federal government to allow Utah to implement the new controls. There's no guarantee that will occur. Despite doing very little to stem illegal immigration, the Obama administration fiercely retains its jurisdiction over the problem. It has stopped Arizona's efforts to assume jurisdiction over illegal immigration.
The likelihood that federal waivers would not be granted is one reason Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hardman is cool to the proposal. "We believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make changes and updates to immigration law," he said.
Sutherland Institute President, Paul Mero, at a press conference, said Utah would immediately implement the bill if it would become law and that it's up to the feds if they want to sue. Notwithstanding Mero's confidence, we recommend that the Legislature's attorneys explore the consequences of such a legal fight.
Utah doesn't need to wage a long, costly legal battle it can't win.