Repeal of guest worker bill introduced; would strip police certification of chiefs who don't enforce immigration laws

Bill would punish police chiefs who don't enforce it

Published: Thursday, Jan. 26 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

Utah State Capitol before Governor Gary R. Herbert delivers his 2012 State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that backers describe as a "compassionate family-oriented pilot program" has been proposed as a replacement to a controversial guest worker bill that the Utah Legislature passed last year.

HB300, sponsored by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, would create a pilot program to deal with people who are in the country illegally because they have overstayed visas. But it also targets local police by withholding funding and yanking the Peace Officers and Standard and Training certification of police chiefs whose departments fail to enforce immigration laws.

The certification provision has been dubbed the "Burbank rule," in reference to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank who has been outspoken in his opposition to local police acting as immigration agents.

He said the bill, unveiled Thursday, was "very disappointing."

"Why are we wandering down this road?" Burbank said, rather than wait for direction when the Supreme Court rules on Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law.

If Herrod's measure is intended to be intimidating, it fails on its face, Burbank said. "It does not make me change my position."

Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe, chairman of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, said Thursday that POST certification is needed "to be a law enforcement officer in any position in the state of Utah."

Keefe said the police chiefs association "has concerns with this bill" such as jail overcrowding and local governments bearing the costs of picking up and processing undocumented immigrants only to learn that federal authorities do not want them held.

"It seems to me the current federal administration made it pretty clear they don't want local law enforcement enforcing these laws. They're suing us for our law. They're suing Arizona and other states. It's unclear how the law is going to be different."

Herrod said he was willing to work with law enforcement officials who have concerns about the bill. One of the public's greatest frustrations is that there is insufficient enforcement of existing laws, he said, which is why he included those provisions.

The bill was intended to "bridge some of the divisions out there. Let's talk about some things we can actually agree upon," he said, explaining that a wide array of people want to create solutions for people who had overstayed visas, had married and started families and were otherwise lawful.

"I put something together I believe could be model legislation for the nation," he said.

HB300 would apply only to people who have overstayed visas. People who entered the country illegally could not participate in the program, Herrod said, noting that legislation should not condone breaking the law.

The bill's pilot program establishes two paths for people with expired visas to eventually regain legal status. One tier deals with married individuals with families or single parents who obtained a visa, let it expire, but have not committed any criminal offenses.

The second involves people with expired visas who have committed other offenses such as working when they were not eligible to do so or accepting government services. This group is subject to fines and would be expected to repay costs of government services they have used. They also would have to leave the country, and reapply for a visa.

"The problem with (the existing guest worker law) was, it didn't provide any way for people to regulate status," said Ron Mortensen, founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration.

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