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Utah seeks state solution to illegal immigration

In a continuing quest on a state by state basis to resolve illegal immigration issues to plug the hole left by a Federal failure to do so, the State of Utah passed two opposing solutions via legislation that are on their way to the Governor. The intent is to resolve differences between those who favor deportation and those who favor integration.

The first proposal and the one reported to have the support of Republican Governor Gary Herbert is the opposite of Arizona’s SB 1070 providing stricter enforcement. Stating he wants a Utah solution, he looks to the Utah Compact, compiled by the state attorney general’s office, the Salt Lake City mayor’s office, and Chamber of Commerce, and other interested parties. He is quoted as saying, “This effort endorses a free-market philosophy that maximizes individual freedom and opportunity.”

The legislation is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble. It allows illegal aliens already in Utah, to pass a background check, to pay a fine of up to $2,500, and learn English, then apply for a temporary work permit through the state Department of Workforce Services. Opponents denounce it as amnesty. One of several aimed toward guest worker programs, this particular piece of legislation was passed late on Friday.

Supporter’s have a realistic attitude relating to the effect on the labor market in the state. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Mark Willes, CEO of Deseret Media, which owns the Deseret News, says, "Some undocumented people here are criminals, and criminals ought to be sent out of the country," "But there are lots of others who want to work hard, are willing to work hard, willing to pay taxes. So how do we find a way to send the thugs home and give opportunities to work to those who really want to work?"

The enforcement bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom went to the Governor as well. The legislation differs from Arizona which dictates police to determine immigration status, while the Utah bill makes it optional. Rep. Sandstrom expects a legal challenge on the measure. The same is expected of the guest worker bill and it does in fact contain a legal analysis anticipating a court challenge.

Utah is faced with a 144% increase in foreign born residents in the last two decades, and between 2005 and 2008 faced a 15% increase in illegal immigrants, a number twice the national average. Utah recognizes the the economic role the immigrants play by working and paying taxes. They want to be known as a welcoming and business–friendly state.


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