SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah senator has unveiled an immigration reform bill he says balances enforcement provisions with economic realities.
Many conservative Republicans, however, oppose the bill because it offers amnesty for illegal immigrants. Among the most vocal critics are sponsors of enforcement-only bills that already have passed the House.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said Senate Bill 288 combines language from most of those House bills, to ensure the different laws coordinate.
He said it's also kinder and doesn't carry the stigma of Arizona-style enforcement, although enforcement is a core element.
Law enforcement will be required to check the immigration status of anyone stopped for a class A misdemeanor or a felony, Bramble said. Businesses will also be fined for hiring illegal workers.
But enforcement is balanced by compassion, Bramble said.
Illegal immigrants would be able to register as guest workers and use driving privilege cards. Their children would qualify for in-state college tuition.
The guest worker permits would not be available until July 1, 2013, and the state would need a federal waiver.
The federal government, in fact, is a hurdle for most reform, Bramble said. Enforcement measures, for example, need the federal government to deport people the state arrests.
"Dealing with the federal government is difficult, and we don't have all of the tools," he said.
The sponsor of the primary enforcement bill, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he will probably vote against the comprehensive bill. Instead, he prefers individual bills to stand on their own merits, and said he cannot support amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"This is saying (illegal immigrants) are above the law," Sandstrom said.
Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, also said he will vote against the comprehensive bill even though punishments for employers who use illegal workers are included.
Herrod is sponsoring a bill fining businesses that don't verify the identities of their employees and hire illegal immigrants.
Like Sandstrom, he is adamantly opposed to any type of amnesty.
"It's opening our doors and saying, 'Come to Utah if you're illegal,' " Herrod said. "It will make our problems worse."
Gov. Gary Herbert said he prefers a comprehensive bill that addresses the state's problems and puts pressure on the federal government.
Finding the balance is the real challenge, but he said Bramble seems to have found a bill people can coalesce around. The biggest challenge is dealing with the illegal immigrants already in the state.
"I don't like people being allowed to cut to the front of the line," Herbert said. "But I don't think the answer is to round all of them up."