The bill considers proof of citizenship to be a driver's license or photo identification issued by a state or tribe. Sandstrom also said if someone merely says they are a citizen, his bill requires officers to accept that. But Sandstrom said lying about immigration status is a felony, so he would advise against it and the harder consequences it could create.
Sandstrom said his bill would also require "state and local agencies that give public benefits to verify the legal status" of recipients by using programs that match Social Security numbers with name, age and gender.
That provision prompted numerous groups that advocate for the poor to send a letter Friday to regional administrators of federal food stamp and Medicaid programs to come to Utah to talk to Sandstrom and others about privacy rights required by federal law, and how Sandstrom's bill might violate them.
"Nobody is going to apply for these programs if there is a risk they will be publicly shamed and embarrassed for it," said Glenn Bailey, executive director of the Crossroads Urban Center. "Federal officials need to come to Utah and explain the rules to some of the leaders of our state."
Sandstrom, however, said his bill simply "takes current federal law, not anything beyond, and puts it on state books and enforces it."
Sandstrom and critics debated the moral, racial and even religious implications of his bill.
After one protester called him racist, Sandstrom said, "It's a sad state in our country, I believe, when you can say that you want to enforce the law … and for some reason it's considered racism."
Sandstrom also addressed religious questions a day after Proyecto Latino director Tony Yapias said that the bill by Sandstrom — who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — would hurt trust of Mormons by Hispanics, and contended Sandstrom's bill violates a church call for compassion as the issue is considered.
"Compassion does not mean that you can willfully violate the law," Sandstrom said. "Too often in society today we want to have no consequences for violation of the law. I believe that my legislation does compassionately deal with this issue and at the same time demand that the rule of law be followed."
He said the LDS Church has taken no position on the bill. But, he added, "The LDS Church demands that its members honor, obey and sustain the law. … I think what I'm doing is in harmony with those teachings."
Although Herbert called Sandstrom's bill a good starting point, he did not endorse the measure. "I look forward to other proposals that I expect to come forward," the governor said.
Still, Sandstrom predicted his bill will pass and the governor will sign it. He said he will have many citizen Latinos testify in favor of it in hearings at the Legislature.
Protesters, meanwhile, vowed to kill it.
"I believe this is a racial and social sin," said the Rev. Steve Klemz, pastor of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, who joined protesters at the Capitol. "It will create fear."
Ellen Monahan of Ogden said, "This is just terrorism." She came to the Capitol in a wheelchair and wearing an oxygen tube and said she is concerned about her Hispanic neighbors. "They are good people and hard workers. This bill will target all Hispanics and anyone who looks different."
Frank Cordova, head of Centro Civico Mexicano, said, "This bill implies that everyone who is undocumented is evil." He added, "We need to work on reform in Congress" to have a national solution.
Another protester, Michael Picardi, with the Coalition of Utah Progressives, said, "This is a national issue and only Congress can solve this. … There are also fiscal concerns. How are they going to pay to defend this in court? How are they going to pay the extra incarceration costs?"
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