'Minutemen' seek a voice
After stint on border, they hope lawmakers will hear their pleas
Utah's "minutemen," recently returned from eyeing a 20-mile stretch of southeast Arizona border as part of the monthlong Minuteman Project, are now turning their attention to Utah's immigration policy.
They're unsure how or if their cries for tougher immigration control will be heard by state and federal lawmakers.
But, as Alex Segura puts it: "I'm hoping it will garner us a little more respect."
Utah Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said he doesn't know if the minutemen will gain any more clout on their issues, but he did say he's impressed by their efforts.
"What I've been reading in the press about their activities have been very laudable," Valentine said. "I'm actually very proud of the way they're conducting themselves right now. . . . That is the best spirit of what we call the rule of law. Instead of taking the law into their own hands, they're staying within the law."
Minuteman Project organizers have already called their effort a success. Throughout April they're watching the border and reporting any border crossers to the Border Patrol.
"We have successfully shut down this section of border," said spokesman Bill Bennett. "We've certainly gotten Washington's attention."
The Border Patrol has reported reduced activity along the minuteman line but attributes the decrease to increased activity by Mexican authorities on their side of the border.
Bennett said organizers have requests from other states New Mexico, Texas, California and Idaho to repeat the project there.
Segura, a board member for Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, and others are hoping to revive previously failed efforts to repeal a law granting some undocumented residents in-state tuition and repeal undocumented immigrants' drivers' licenses.
Both attempts by Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, have been referred to interim study.
A compromise driver's license bill, SB227, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, did pass. SB227, which replaced undocumented immigrants' drivers' licenses with driving privilege cards that can't be used for government identification, has been signed into law.
The bill was driven by a state audit that suggested Utah was being used as a portal for undocumented immigrants to get drivers' licenses and found that some undocumented immigrants may be registering to vote.
Any attempts at revoking either law benefiting undocumented immigrants will likely face opposition from a unified Hispanic community, which was sharply split over SB227.
RAZ-PAC president Bob Gallegos and Joe Reyna, Republican co-chairman of the Utah Hispanic Legislative Task Force, found themselves on opposite sides of that debate.
However, both now say they'll fight against any further attempts to repeal laws benefiting undocumented immigrants.
"There's not going to be any middle ground," said Reyna, who was criticized by many in the Hispanic community, along with other task force members, for offering "reluctant support" of SB227 as a compromise between keeping illegal immigrants' drivers' licenses and repealing them altogether.
"I don't think Utah will take it," Reyna said of any future effort to repeal Utah laws benefiting undocumented immigrants. "We will rally against it."
Randy Green of St. George, a member of Citizens Council on Illegal Immigration, said his participation in the Minuteman Project helped show closing the border is possible.
"Looking at all these troops going to Iraq, why can't they train along the border?" Green said.
Minuteman Darrel Wood of Price also hopes his volunteer efforts will result in legislation. He's hoping to find a lawmaker to bring up a bill similar to Arizona's Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. It also requires state and local governments to verify eligibility of applicants for services not federally mandated, and to report applicants who aren't documented.
"I'm hoping the Utah people will wake up and see we are giving them benefits, and say that's not right," Wood said.
Matt Throckmorton, an activist against illegal immigration, said he supported SB227, because "it covers most of Prop. 200."The bill, he said, prevents undocumented immigrants from registering to vote using "motor voter." It also, he said, prevents them from using their identification to access public benefits for which a driver's license serves as identification.
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