Amid protest, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom unveils immigration enforcement bill

Published: Friday, Aug. 13 2010 12:00 p.m. MDT

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, holds a news conference to release his much-awaited "Arizona-style" immigration enforcement bill at the Capitol on Friday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a sign that the coming debate on immigration reform will not be calm nor always civil.

As Rep. Stephen Sandstrom entered the state Capitol rotunda to unveil his long-awaited "Arizona-style" immigration enforcement bill, about 100 protesters (most of whom were not Latino) started chanting "Shame on Sandstrom." Then they marched across the rotunda to literally surround him closely as he talked to the media, interrupting him with boos, jeers and waving signs.

"One thing I want to stress is this is not about race," said Sandstrom, R-Orem, evoking boos from protesters. Several called out that he is a liar. Some said it will force only Hispanics to carry papers with them to prove they are in the country legally.

"Illegal is not a race, it's a crime," Sandstrom responded. "There has to be consequences for breaking the law."

He then outlined what consequences would come from a bill that he said "is not a watered-down version of the Arizona law. This is a tough, hard-hitting bill that in some ways goes further than Arizona law in curbing illegal immigration."

Gov. Gary Herbert called it a "good starting point to further discussion on the issue of illegal immigration."

Much like Arizona's controversial bill, Sandstrom's would require law officers to check the immigration status of people detained or arrested for other reasons if officers have "reasonable suspicion" that they are here illegally. Officers would then need to turn over such people to federal immigration officials.

Sandstrom said that someone presenting a "driving privilege card," which in Utah is now given only to illegal immigrants, would be "absolute proof" of being here illegally. That could make illegal aliens stopped for a traffic violation face a tough choice: either fear being charged for driving without permission if they show nothing or possibly be deported if they show a driving privilege card.

Sandstrom said it shows that the state probably needs to rethink its current practice of issuing driving privilege cards. Critics have said that getting rid of them could lead to more people being on the road without insurance — which is difficult to obtain without a license or privilege card.

Unlike Arizona's law, Sandstrom said his version would allow an officer to question the immigration status of only the person who is being held for violating a crime — and would not allow questioning others who may be in the same car or in the general vicinity of where a crime occurred.

Also, Sandstrom said his bill would not allow questioning people for some minor crimes such as loitering, so that day laborers gathering at a hardware store seeking work could not be questioned.

Sandstrom said his version also outlaws racial profiling. "It requires law enforcement agencies not to consider race, color or national origin as a reason for asking the question."

But Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank has said such bills put police in an impossible situation. He said it is virtually impossible not to racially profile (or be accused of it) unless police ask everyone they detain about immigration status, and the bill allows suing police if a citizen thinks they should have questioned someone.

The bill would give any citizen court standing to sue any agency he or she feels is not enforcing the law — and agencies could face fines of up to $5,000 a day. It also would ban local governments and agencies from passing any rules or ordinances that would interfere with enforcement of the law.

The bill would also allow police to transport illegal immigrants to federal facilities so they wouldn't need to be detained in local jails.

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