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Opponents of Utah guest worker program for illegal immigrants launch website

Published: Wednesday, March 30 2011 6:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of newly passed legislation creating a guest worker program for illegal immigrants have launched a website to press lawmakers for a repeal.

The site, www.repeal116.com, is designed to create a groundswell of objection to HB116, which passed the Utah Legislature and was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert earlier this month.

"It's mainly aimed at legislators and the governor to get them to rethink their actions," said Ron Mortensen, founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration.

Critics of HB116 saw public pressure persuade Herbert to call the Legislature into special session last week to repeal HB477, which would have restricted access to public records. Brandon Beckham, who designed the website, said he wants the governor to call another special session in June to repeal the guest worker bill.

“Gov. Herbert should not have signed the bill. The (Republican) delegates now hope to emphasize the consequences of our elected officials’ actions while also encouraging them to step up and do the right thing — repeal HB116.” said Beckham, a Republican state delegate from Orem.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, Herbert's spokeswoman Ally Isom stressed the widespread support of the package of immigration bills that passed with bipartisan majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and the backing of business, ecclesiastical, and advocacy groups throughout the state.

"The governor has provided leadership which resulted in a common-sense solution — a solution which has garnered, and will continue to garner, the support of mainstream Utah," Isom said.

HB116 would set up a process for undocumented immigrants living in Utah before May 11, 2011, to obtain a guest worker permit. Applicants would be fined $2,500 — $1,000 for overstaying a visa — for entering the country illegally. The program, which requires federal approval, would take effect in July 2013.

The website, which describes the bill as "Utah's amnesty law," includes a petition for visitors to sign. Beckham said he also intends to put up a candidate pledge supporting not only a repeal but to work to that end.

"We're saying, 'We're going to hold you accountable. This is how we're going to do it,'" he said.

Candidates who don't sign the pledge won't get support from delegates who favor the repeal, Beckham said. "This is huge issue for us," he said. "This is not something that's gong to die away."

Beckham rallied nearly a hundred GOP delegates at the end of the 2011 legislative session and led an effort to collect 4,700 signatures on a petition urging Herbert to veto HB116.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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