SALT LAKE CITY — A so-called "Utah solution" to illegal immigration has come under fire on several fronts. And now an organization that supported the guts of the plan wants to replace it with a measure the Utah Legislature dismissed with little consideration.
The Sutherland Institute on Thursday called Sen. Luz Robles' failed SB60 the "gold standard" of a state-based, comprehensive immigration policy. It proposes to replace controversial HB116 with the Salt Lake Democrat's bill, which stressed accountability.
"Accountability is the key. Utah has the right, as a sovereign state, to insist on personal accountability from anyone within its borders," said Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero.
Robles' measure called for undocumented immigrants of working age to register for an "accountability card" every two years. Applicants would have to undergo a criminal background check and pass an English proficiency test. It also prohibited employers from hiring illegal immigrants without a permit and imposed hefty fines on those that did.
"Accountability also means undocumented immigrants must be willing to come to the surface of society and Utah employers utilizing undocumented immigrant labor must do their part," Mero said.
Senate Republicans killed SB60 while assembling their own comprehensive reform package that came to be known as the "Utah solution."
HB116 establishes a guest worker permit program starting July 2013. It requires federal approval to be implemented as would the accountability card in SB60. The guest worker bill also includes sanctions for businesses with more than 15 employees that hire illegal workers.
The bill enjoyed broad support from Utah's political, business and religious communities, including the LDS Church, when Gov. Gary Herbert signed it into law earlier this year.
But it also came under attack from conservative Republicans who view it as amnesty.
GOP state delegate Brandon Beckham mounted a statewide petition drive to repeal HB116. Both the Salt Lake County and Utah County Republican parties passed resolutions supporting a repeal. The state GOP will consider doing the same when it holds its annual convention this month.
And this week Merrill Cook launched a county-by-county initiative petition to stop the guest worker program.