The political and legal fallout now plaguing Arizona after that state's passage of one of the nation's toughest new immigration laws could soon be headed for Utah.
Arizona's SB1070, signed into law Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer, calls for, in part, all local law enforcement officers to ask for immigration status documents "whenever there is reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present."
Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, told the Deseret News Monday he's started work on drafting a bill for the 2011 Utah legislative session that uses the Arizona statute as a model — a move he said is necessary to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants into the Beehive State.
"It is imperative that we pass similar legislation here in Utah," Sandstrom said. "In the past, when we've seen tougher legislation in Arizona … a lot of illegal immigrants just move here."
While critics of the bill say it will lead to racial profiling and likely makes inroads into rights protected under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Sandstrom said it's no different from enforcement policy local police officers already use.
"If you get pulled over for driving intoxicated, what's the first thing the officer asks for?" Sandstrom said. "Your ID, right? This is the same thing, the same work police officers are already doing … asking for documentation that relates to probable cause."
That law enforcement inquiry is one that American Civil Liberties Union of Utah director Karen McCreary said is unacceptable.
"This Arizona statute amounts to requiring the carrying of 'papers,' " McCreary said. "We just don't do that in America."
McCreary said there are a number of aspects of the new Arizona law that are troubling.
"There are a lot of provisions that raise issues that are unconstitutional on their face, violate the supremacy clause, contradict current Arizona law," McCreary said. "There is some real basis for challenging this."
McCreary said her colleagues at the ACLU of Arizona are already preparing for a lawsuit aimed at stopping implementation of the law, in conjunction with a variety of civil rights and immigrant advocate groups.
Sandstrom said while he will use the Arizona statute as a basis for his proposal, he is aware of the issues being raised against the new law and will work to build in protections for individuals' rights in his Utah version.
"I don't want anyone to be under the impression that this is targeting a specific group of people," Sandstrom said. "That's an aspect I want to make sure has nothing to do with this bill."
Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who was in Washington, D.C., last week meeting with federal officials on immigration reform as part of a National Conference of State Legislators task force, said Monday that how Arizona plans on putting the law into practice could be the biggest unanswered question
"I don't think anybody can say how implementation will work," Bramble said. "What additional burden this places on local law enforcement and individual citizens remains unknown."
Bramble said placing new immigration enforcement responsibilities on already overburdened law enforcement agencies could lead to redirecting efforts away from priority police issues like violent crime and drug trafficking, both in Arizona and here in Utah if a similar law is put into place. Bramble also said he had concerns about constitutional infringements under the new immigration rules.
"I spoke to the president of the Arizona Senate in St. Louis last week," Bramble said. "He couldn't tell me what the practical solution was to balancing due process and probable cause under the new statute without intruding on citizens' civil rights."
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wasn't ready to weigh in on Sandstrom's proposal without seeing the language of the bill, but his spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said the governor understood the burden being placed on states to impose their own statutes in lieu of immigration reform at the federal level.
"At this point, it is premature to discuss the potential effects of legislation that has not yet been drafted or presented to the governor for review," Welling said. "Gov. Herbert understands the interest in addressing illegal immigration and its impact on individual states, particularly in light of the federal government's inaction on the issue."
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, said it is far too early for Utah to be following in the footsteps of its southern neighbor.
"Some of my colleagues act like my teenagers when the latest electronic gadgets come out," Chavez-Houck said. "They have to buy it immediately without seeing if it works or people are happy with it."80 comments on this story
"Despite the fact that most constitutional experts believe SB1070 is very constitutionally problematic, for some reason Utahns have to jump on the bandwagon, posthaste."
Chavez-Houck said the state would be much better served to wait and see how Arizona, and its new law, fares before considering similar legislation.
As for Sandstrom, he believes the timing is perfect for bringing a new, more stringent regulation online in Utah to combat the influx of illegal immigrants into the state, and he said he's received a flood of e-mails from Utahns who agree.
"I can tell you this," Sandstrom said. "The people in the state of Utah will be behind this bill."