Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Latino leaders Thursday publicly called for state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, not to introduce his "Arizona-style" immigration enforcement bill, saying it will increase ethnic tension and hostility without solving anything.
But Sandstrom said he will unveil the bill Friday at a state Capitol press conference, and then a legislative committee will begin consideration of it at interim meetings Wednesday. He said he is carrying out the will of most Utahns and asserted that Latino leaders attacking him don't even represent a majority of Hispanic residents.
Sandstrom has said the bill is patterned after an Arizona law that requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they stop if they have reasonable suspicion they are here illegally. Because some portions of it have been put on hold by federal courts, he said he has taken out some of the more severe provisions and added extra protection against "racial profiling."
Archie Archuleta, president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, said at a press conference at Centro Civico Mexicano that Congress, not the Utah Legislature, should address immigration reform if long-lasting solutions are to be found.
"We support a federal approach to immigration because that's the constitutional way," Archuleta said. "We are opposed to state, chaotic laws that try to usurp the strength of the federal government."
Sandstrom told the Deseret News, in response, that "states often enforce federal laws" and also pass laws complementary to federal ones. He said he is pushing his law largely because Congress has not acted on immigration reform.
"I think Rep. Sandstrom is playing the part of an incendiary, that is, a fire bug," Archuleta said, adding that hatred over immigration "is a fire."
"Right now, it's a low fire, but it's building," he said. "This bill will exacerbate that."
Archuleta said Sandstrom's bill is one in a long string of legislation that targeted illegal immigrants by making it harder to find jobs, impossible to get drivers' licenses and welfare and tougher to enter schools.
"What else is left?" he asked. "Are we going to be hiding undocumented men, women and children in our attics and in our cellars? Is this reminiscent, and does it remind you of something?"
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino and a former state director of Hispanic affairs, said Sandstrom's bill "will bring back a lot of hostility and tension in our community," and he said Sandstrom will bear the responsibility for it.
Yapias even made a religious appeal to Sandstrom. He said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has suffered image damage among some Hispanics nationally because the author of the Arizona bill, state Sen. Russell Pearce, is a Mormon. Yapias said if Sandstrom, who also is a member of the LDS Church, pushes his bill, it will cause even more harm for the church among Latinos.
"As we oftentimes hear in our community, on Sundays we're brothers and sisters, but Monday through Saturday we're trying to find somebody to deport," Yapias said. "That's not the attitude we should take in Utah. We should all be good friends, brothers and sisters, and not use immigration to politicize so they can get re-elected."
Sandstrom, however, said he is finding support for his bill among Hispanics who are in the country legally, and he said he will have many of them testify when hearings are held on his bill.
Latino groups attacking him "represent illegal aliens," Sandstrom said, and are "complicit in identify theft."
"Anyone here illegally and working (is) committing identity theft and fraud — and that's a felony," he said. "That's what people in Utah won't stand for anymore."
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