SALT LAKE CITY -- Illegal immigrants would be allowed to live and work in Utah as long as they registered with the state under a proposal by a Democratic state lawmaker.
Sen. Luz Robles, of Salt Lake City, introduced a proposal Tuesday that would direct the governor to seek a waiver from the federal government for the creation of a pilot program that would require illegal immigrants residing in Utah to obtain a permit card.
"We're not granting immigration status to anybody," Robles said. "We know they're here, they're already part of our communities. We just want to account for them, screen them and make sure we know who they are and where they came from."
Illegal immigrants already living in Utah for at least 18 months who registered with the state, paid a fee and passed a criminal background check would be allowed to get a job in Utah as long as their employers signed up for the program.
New residents who are illegal immigrants wouldn't be allowed to get a permit unless they already had a job lined up for them. They would also be required to pass an English and civics test within one year of receiving their permit.
The different permits would require renewal every 18 months to two years. Those with revoked or expired permits would be required to leave the state and would be reported to federal immigration officials.
The proposal is backed by the conservative Sutherland Institute and is seen as an alternative to an Arizona-style enforcement bill being sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, of Orem.
Sandstrom's bill includes a requirement that police, while enforcing other laws, question people's immigration status if officers have reasonable suspicion they're in the country illegally.
Arizona's law also requires police to question people only when they're enforcing another law. But unlike Arizona's law, Sandstrom's bill specifies that passengers in a vehicle can be questioned about their status only if an officer has reasonable suspicion they may be involved in the smuggling or transportation of illegal immigrants.
Robles' proposal, which isn't finalized yet, would also require law enforcement officials to check to see if someone has a permit to be in the state. Those who don't have a permit or a photographic document would have their pictures and fingerprints taken, which would be entered into a state database.
"You'll either proudly carry an accountability card or you won't. If you do, you're welcome among us. If you don't, you're not welcome among us. It's that simple," said Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute.
The Legislature convenes in January.