Immigration bills' foes turn up heat

Published: Tuesday, March 15 2011 9:25 a.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert

Brian Nicholson, El Observador de Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of the "Utah solution" on immigration, a comprehensive approach lawmakers recently passed, are pushing back against the proposal.

They're ramping up a variety of efforts, including robo-calls, a website, a petition, a boycott and potential legal challenges.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gary Herbert is to sign the immigration bills into law Tuesday, his spokeswoman Ally Isom said.

A group of GOP delegates have launched a robo-call, a website and a petition dubbed "Veto HB116." The bill would establish a guest-worker program in Utah, with a federal waiver, something the group calls "irresponsible" and "amnesty."

"As GOP delegates, we support the governor and everything he's done up until now," said Brandon Beckham, an organizer of the petition who is a state and Utah County GOP delegate. "If he signs this bill, I don't think he's going to muster enough delegate support to make it past convention."

Beckham estimates 500 to 600 delegates have signed on to his effort and said the number is growing. Gov. Gary Herbert met with a group of delegates last week to hear their concerns. Beckham said delegates are urging the governor to listen to them.

"It's not that we're trying to say 'Hey governor, we're gonna ruin your career,' no," said Beckham. "But we cannot support any of our elected leaders who have either supported this bill, drafted this bill or signed it."

The automated phone call going out to GOP state delegates states: "Over 70% of Utahns do not support amnesty for illegal aliens. Yet, our state Legislature did exactly that by narrowly passing House Bill 116."

The call notes that last week, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was in Washington, D.C., "pitching this to the Obama administration as a model for the entire country. All eyes are on Utah to stop this bill. We must act now."

It then urges the listener to call the governor and tell him to veto the bill.

Last week, Herbert got pressure from the other side, from Latino families and children, worried about an enforcement bill lawmakers had passed, also urging him to veto HB 116.

Meantime, members of the Latino community on Monday kicked off "La Campana de No Compres," the "campaign of no buying."

They oppose Utah's immigration measures, saying it's a federal matter, and are calling for Hispanics to avoid spending. The group even recommend Hispanics pull their money out of banks for the next two weeks to show the community's social and economic impact.

"Not so much to hurt anyone in particular, that's why only the two weeks," said community leader Archie Archuleta, who said the idea was backed by a group of more than 100 community members at a meeting last week in Salt Lake. He said the aim is "to get the attention that's well-deserved and give it the other side."

Others don't think it's the right thing to do, particularly after business groups like the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce had advocated the Utah Compact and what's seen as less harsh legislation than Arizona passed last year.

"It would be a slap in the face to say now after all you've done for us, we're going to support a boycott," said Tony Yapias, director of Projecto Latino de Utah.

Meantime, several groups, including the ACLU, are examining Utah's legislation, mulling a potential court challenge on constitutional grounds.

e-mail: jdaley@desnews.com

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