Lawmakers say new bill would welcome immigrants

Mar 2 2011 - 11:53pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- With just seven days left in the legislative session, Utah lawmakers are still wrestling with illegal immigration, with bills being debated in committees and introduced in news conferences Wednesday.

Democrats, Republicans and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff announced House Bill 466 during a news conference Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, and Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, would create a Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration.

The bill, if it becomes law, would allow the commission to work with the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and bring workers who have visas to Utah. It also would collect data and work with the federal government.

Utah would not need a federal waiver to bring workers in, unlike the proposed guest worker programs for those who are here illegally that would require a federal waiver, Shurtleff said.

HB 466 is set to be heard before the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee at 5:10 p.m. today, Sandstrom said.

"This issue of immigration is very decisive," he said. "Having this group of legislators from both sides of the aisle and from both houses, while we may disagree with some issues of immigration, we can come together on an issue to show to the world that Utah does welcome immigrants."

Sandstrom is also the sponsor of HB 70, an enforcement bill, which was tabled Wednesday afternoon by the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said before the bill was tabled, "HB 70 is an enforcement piece that has polarized the citizens of this state so significantly that, no matter what happens to it, it becomes a problem."

He said the bill would have a negative impact on the state's economy.

Earlier Wednesday, the Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee unanimously approved HB 469, sponsored by Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork. The bill now goes before the House for further consideration.

The bill will send a message to the world, Dougall said: "We want to welcome immigrants to Utah."

The bill would allow a Utah resident to sponsor a family or two adults from another country who want to immigrate to the United States and live in Utah.

Dougall said his bill allows for legal immigration into the country.

Ronald Mortensen, of Bountiful, who is with the 9/12 Davis Project and several other organizations, spoke in favor of Dougall's bill.

He said the bill helps Americans and immigrants who want to "play by the rules."

Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said the bill is unconstitutional because immigration is the jurisdiction of the federal government.

"Foreign nationals need a visa, and no way can this be constitutional."

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