Immigration bills likely dead for the 2012 legislative session
SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, lit a fuse in the Utah House when he tried to get a hearing for his illegal immigration bill Monday.
And his unsuccessful attempt "most likely" means state lawmakers won't discuss any immigration bills this session, said Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo.
"I fully anticipated there would not be any," said Ron Mortensen, co-founder of Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration.
A Senate committee earlier tabled Sen. Stephen Urquhart's bill to repeal last year's controversial HB116. Also, the St. George Republican's measure to eliminate driving privilege cards for undocumented immigrants is not scheduled for a hearing.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, to add employer sanctions to E-Verify remains in the House Rules Committee, which determines which measures get legislative hearings and which don't. E-Verify is a federal Internet-based system that allows companies to check workers' immigration status.
Herrod said his HB300, which would have repealed and replaced last year's guest workers bill, deserves to be heard.
"I will not be a coward and let this body go without a vote," he said.
But the vote to lift the bill from the House Rules Committee never came.
On a motion by Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, whom Herrod disparagingly called "Mr. 477," the House took a break to "cool down" and never mentioned the bill when it returned. Dougall last year at the 11th hour sponsored the unpopular HB477, which would have made sweeping changes to Utah's open records law.
Herrod, a candidate for U.S. Senate who doesn't plan to return to the Legislature, implored House members to not use Dougall's "ploy" to shy away from a vote.
Herrod accused Lockhart of keeping his immigration bill bottled up in the Rules Committee, something he said Lockhart promised she wouldn't do to bills when she ran for speaker.
"Leadership has killed this bill," Herrod said. "She's done that to others, but that's simply not right."
Lockhart said she did not kill the bill. The Rules Committee decided not to advance any illegal immigration bills for legislative hearings this year, she said.
"He was not being singled out," the speaker said.
Herrod said he was led to believe the committee was going to forward a group of immigration bills, and now says he was lied to.
"It unfortunate that he feels lied to," Lockhart said.
Because HB116 does not take effect until mid 2013, lawmakers want to give immigration legislation a rest this year, she said. But Lockhart "absolutely" expects it to be back next year.
Community activist Tony Yapias lauded the House leader's stance.
"I commend the speaker for the work she's doing this year to prioritize issues of importance to Utahns. We've dealt with the immigration issue as much as we're going to. I think everyone recognizes it's a federal issue."
Mark Alvarez, a Salt Lake immigration attorney, said it was pretty clear at the outset of the legislative session "that the Legislature didn't have much appetite to deal with immigration again."
As lawmakers briefly considered some new proposals this session, a federal judge was hearing arguments whether to grant a preliminary injunction to keep Utah's immigration enforcement measure passed last year, HB497, from becoming law.
"Their message was sent," Alvarez said of legislation passed in 2011. " Let's just leave the message as it is."
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