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

Mortensen, a retired foreign service officer, said HB300 would establish a link to U.S. Agency for International Development programs to help meet the workforce needs of Utah employers. Foreign national workers who are being helped by federal government development programs would receive on-the-job training in certain jobs, such as working on a dairy farm. They could the take their skills to their home nations.

The bill, if passed, would require changes in federal law before the pilot program could be implemented.

That's a steep hurdle, said community activist Tony Yapias. "I would assume even if it passes, it would be dead on arrival on the federal level."

He said lawmakers should hold off on passing new laws until the Supreme Court rules on the Arizona case. "In a few months, we'll know what authority states have, if they can make immigration law," Yapias said.

In sponsoring HB300, Herrod is "shooting from the hip without realizing the full consequences of it," Yapias said. 

Herrod, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said in a previous interiew that he would introduce the law as an "olive branch" to the Republican Party. Delegates at Republican Party county conventions throughout the state passed resolutions calling for the repeal of HB116, the guest worker bill passed last year.

But he said he recognizes that the political climate on Utah's Capitol Hill is such that there may be little appetite to address bills such as HB300.

"Does anyone want to go through the pain we went through last time around? I don't think so," he said. "At the same time, can I give up on my principles? I think 116 is a bad bill."

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said she doubts there will be an "outright, total" repeal of HB116, but that it will likely be amended.

As for the so-called "Burbank rule," Lockhart said, "I think that's an interesting provision, one that I'm going to have to read."

In concept, there is a problem when police agencies won't enforce the law, she said.  "The law is the law. Federal law applies."

But Burbank said HB300 and similar proposals would hinder police in their primary mission unnecessarily spread fear among undocumented immigrants as well as families with mixed immigration status.

"When local law enforcement is not protecting everyone and not accessible to everyone, we're not doing our job," he said.

If people view local police also as immigration agents, they will be reluctant to seek help when they are victims of crimes. "That's a scary situation. That's when criminal activity thrives," he said.

Because of the department's community policing efforts, Salt Lake City's crime rate is at a 26-year low, Burbank said, "and this is despite a fairly large population of 'illegal immigrants' they're all worried about and this legislation supposedly targets."

Gov. Gary Herbert said he’ll watch the legislation closely to "see whether I concur."

"It was always thought there was going to be some modification, some changes. That's why the implementation (for HB116) was for 2½ years later," he said Thursday during the governor's monthly KUED press conference.

"I guess I don't care whether it's repeal and replace or modify and replace. I think you can get to the same place of an improved bill."

Whatever happens, Herbert said, he hopes there can be some reconciliation among the various factions on the issue.

The governor sidestepped a question about the bill's so-called "Burbank rule."

"I know there is a difference of opinion on what the local law enforcement people should be doing; that's part of the constitutional challenge we have on the law that is in court today," he said.

Herbert said states are saying if the federal government isn't going to enforce the law, they will. "I think that's the attitude here in Utah," he said.

Some police agencies like that and some don't, Herbert said. "If Chief Burbank doesn't, that's something we'll have to work through," he said.

Herbert also favors a tougher E-Verify law.

"The business community has got to step up. They cannot continue to be a magnet and an enticement and a reward for people that break the law. We can't say 'Come in here and break the law and we’ll give you a job.'"

Contributing: Dennis Romboy

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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