People on both sides of the immigration debate are opposing a compromise bill that would give illegal immigrants "driving privilege cards" that couldn't be used for identification.
The bill, SB227, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would repeal a law that allows the use of a temporary identification number (ITIN), issued by the Internal Revenue Service, to obtain a Utah driver's license.
It is up for debate this morning in the Senate Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee.
Several representatives of the Hispanic community have expressed concern that the bill could lead to racial profiling because a license issued to someone using an ITIN would look different from a regular license.
Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (UFIRE) also opposes Bramble's bill because it gives illegal immigrants driving privileges. UFIRE supports another bill, HB330, that would repeal illegal immigrants' licenses altogether.
Bramble released his bill last week in response to an Office of the Legislative Auditor General audit that found Utah is being used as a "portal for undocumented aliens living out of state to obtain driver licenses." It also found 383 people who "appear to be undocumented aliens" had registered to vote.
"The issue of racial profiling is not the issue of this bill," Bramble said. "It is the integrity of our voting system. . . . It is incumbent upon this Legislature to respond to inappropriate conduct."
Under the current law, a law enforcement officer can access a driver's ITIN or Social Security number by calling it in to dispatch, said Col. Scott Duncan, superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol.
Generally, enforcing immigration law "is not our role," Duncan said. He didn't see Bramble's law changing that.
But Bob Gallegos, president of RAZ PAC, said the bill would instantly identify people as undocumented and could lead to harassment of anyone with a "brown face."
"Officers are going to be looking for that," said Gallegos. "I don't want to be checked out for something like that."
Gallegos said several Latinos plan to show up today to protest the bill, and he has called a meeting for Latino community leaders tonight to discuss the license issue.
The Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force reluctantly supports Bramble's bill but has concerns about racial profiling and that there's no guarantee it wouldn't target people for deportation. Those concerns have led some task force members oppose the bill.
"For me that's better than to say, 'Let's get rid of the license completely,' " said Joe Reyna, task force co-chairman. "Then we're lost and there's nothing we can do about it."
Marco Diaz, head of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly and member of the task force, told the Senate GOP caucus that supporting Bramble's bill hasn't been an easy position to take.
"Some more extreme factions of our community believe we are selling out," he said.
Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, thanked him for his support.
"We appreciate your taking the lead and being willing to come to a compromise," Valentine said.
Matt Throckmorton, who founded UFIRE but is no longer active with the group, said Bramble's bill is "not a perfect bill, but it is doing some good things."
Throckmorton said it would keep illegal immigrants from registering to vote and would prevent them from using their driver permit as ID.He acknowledged, however, "it drives me nuts Utah will still remain an incentive" for undocumented immigrants to get licenses.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche