SALT LAKE CITY — Meet the new bill. Same as the old bill.
Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's revised enforcement-only illegal immigration measure came out Thursday with only slight changes from the much-maligned HB70.
"There's very little difference," the Orem Republican said.
After meeting with the Utah Attorney General's Office, the Utah Department of Public Safety and Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank, he said he made technical adjustments that would help police officers carry out the law.
"It’s not weaker by any means. It’s not tougher, but procedurally it's better," Sandstrom said.
Now known has HB497, the measure requires police to verify the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors and those booked into jail on class B and class C misdemeanors. It also says officers may attempt to verify the status of someone detained for class B and class C misdemeanors based on "reasonable suspicion."
That phrase has caused some consternation as the former bill was debated. But Sandstrom said it's a nationally recognized tool police use every day. "It shouldn’t be demonized," he said.
Checking legal status at the time of arrest or booking are the biggest changes from the previous bill.
The new bill also provides leeway for those who might not have documents verifying their status in their possession. It would allow people to provide officers verifiable information that they do have documents but not with them.
Sandstrom said Utah shouldn't be a "police state" in which everyone has to carry identifying papers.
"Just because you don't have ID, doesn’t mean you're illegal," he said.
GOP House leadership has given HB497 its blessing, Sandstrom said. Republican Senate leaders killed the earlier bill because they said it polarized the community and couldn’t be separated from Arizona-style enforcement legislation.
Sandstrom said the new bill is in line with Senate leaders' expectations and he believes it has the votes to get passed.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, has a comprehensive illegal immigration proposal that includes an enforcement component. He and Sandstrom earlier reached a deal in which Sandstrom's bill would trump Bramble's regarding enforcement if both should pass.