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In our opinion: The Utah solution

Published: Wednesday, March 9 2011 6:58 p.m. MST

As Utah's Legislature finishes its work today we acknowledge the thought, the effort, the resolve and the heart that went into passage of immigration reforms that thoughtfully step up enforcement, improve public safety and provide a pragmatic guest worker program that doesn't create a path to citizenship.

What lawmakers have forged through the legislative process reflects the will of the vast majority of Utahns. In the most recent polling by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret News and KSL, 71 percent of those surveyed supported a state-issued work permit for undocumented immigrants if they have a job and agree to a criminal background check — characteristics of the new legislation.

It also provides a model for comprehensive immigration reform that is already capturing positive national attention. Jason Riley wrote favorably last weekend in The Wall Street Journal about Utah's lawmakers on this issue:

"Apparently, there are still some conservative lawmakers left who, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, don't abandon free-market principles in favor of reactionary populism when the topic turns to immigration."

The cornerstone of Utah's solution is found in the final version of HB116. We recognize the foresight and wisdom of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Bill Wright and Sen. Stuart Reid. We honor the leadership of Senate President Michael Waddoups and House Speaker Becky Lockhart. And we appreciate the statesmanship of Sen. Curt Bramble. All these have played key roles in forging Utah's promising solution while adhering to principle in the face of single-issue pressure politics and disparagement.

Now that Utah's solution has passed by wide majorities in the Legislature, detractors from small but vocal groups have come out in force to pressure Gov. Gary Herbert to veto this timely and forward thinking legislation. Some have protested against the stepped-up enforcement that would weed out dangerous criminals. Others are arguing against the advisability of the very popular guest worker concept.

Herbert, who under the legislation would be responsible to seek appropriate waivers from the federal government in order for the bill to take full effect, indicates that he is carefully studying the legislation.

When some legislators began to address the immigration issue last summer, Herbert brought together varying constituencies and viewpoints in a roundtable discussion to seek for a Utah solution based on principle. HB116 represents the culmination of the process that Herbert thoughtfully began. It accords with the principles Herbert initially espoused. It represents the will of the majority of Utahns as expressed in polling. And importantly, it represents the will of the majority of Utah's elected representatives after long, open, rigorous and public debate.

Those who are disappointed with the outcome of this process have made that disappointment known to Herbert. The issues have been emotional and hard fought. It is now, however, time for Herbert to show his support for the outcome of the statesmanlike process he began.

We urge Herbert to sign into law, without delay, Utah's principled comprehensive solution to immigration.

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