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The needle moves on immigration reform

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29 2013 12:43 a.m. MST

"The principles create 'a workable road map' to lawful status for people of good will who are already here; reform our legal immigration system to strengthen the American economy and American families and create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers," the Chamber said in a statement.

Jason Mathis, executive vice president of the Salt Lake Chamber, said the nation needs hardworking and highly educated workers to enable the American economy to flourish.  

“Utah’s business community is encouraged by the reasonable principles outlined today and we will continue to encourage members of Utah’s federal delegation to lead efforts to fix our broken immigration system.”

Lee says no

Even as the Chamber was asking Utah's congressional delegation to be "united in common purpose and work as a team to reform America's broken immigration system," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced he was unable to support the principles for reform developed by the bipartisan Senate group.

“These guidelines contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country. Reforms to our complex and dysfunctional immigration system should not in any way favor those who came here illegally over the millions of applicants who seek to come here lawfully," Lee said in a statement.

The framework carves out an exception for agricultural workers "that has little justification," he said.

Roger Tsai, a Salt Lake attorney who represents employers on immigration matters, said the success of the reform efforts "will be based upon the details."

The green card provisions of the proposal raise some questions, he said. If undocumented applicants cannot receive green cards until people in line receive theirs, the wait could be at least four years, based on current visa caps, Tsai said.

"What if it's 10 years? What if it's 15 years?" he said.

The Senate agreement dovetails the proposal Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday. National observers say the administration's plan largely mirrors the Congressional Hispanic Caucus' "Principles on Immigration Reform and Our Commitment to the American Dream," which was released in November.

It declares the caucuses' "commitment to the American people to work tirelessly toward common sense, comprehensive immigration reform that serves America's interests, promotes fairness and rule of law and contributes effectively and meaningfully to our economic well-being an recovery."

For the full declaration, visit: http://gutierrez.house.gov/sites/gutierrez.house.gov/files/One%20Nation_Principles%20on%20Immigration%20Reform.pdf.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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