Bramble unveils 'Utah Compact' comprehensive illegal immigration bill

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 23 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A comprehensive illegal immigration bill being pitched as Utah Compact-friendly emerged at the Legislature on Wednesday after weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions.

Sen. Curt Bramble's proposal incorporates pieces of several other bills including enforcement, a guest worker program, employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers and in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.

Bramble, R-Provo, talked about its concepts in a news conference Wednesday, but did not reveal many details because the bill remains in draft form.

"We're looking for a Utah solution to deal with immigration here," he said.

Bramble's measure attempts to align itself with the Utah Compact and Gov. Gary Herbert's six guiding principles on illegal immigration reform. Tenets in both documents somewhat overlap. The compact, backed by business, civic and religious leaders, calls for a humane approach and opposes policies that unnecessarily separate families. Herbert favors greater accountability and not burdening taxpayers.

The bill would require federal approval. Absent that, it would become state law regardless on July 1, 2013, Bramble said.

Bramble has worked behind the scenes with lawmakers and other stakeholders to draft a comprehensive illegal immigration bill since the the Legislature convened four weeks ago.

Two House members, Reps. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, and Chris Herrod, R-Provo, who are running their own complementary bills, have said they want no part of comprehensive legislation that includes a guest worker program. Such a plan, they say, would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Like Sandstrom's measure, Bramble's would require police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of a class A misdemeanor or felony. It does, however, remove the phrase "reasonable suspicion," ostensibly to eliminate racial profiling.

Bramble's bill would impose a $2,500 fine on people who come into the United States illegally and a $1,000 fine for those who overstay visas. Bramble said the fine would be assessed at the time an undocumented person applies for a guest worker card.

The House approved Rep. Bill Wright's guest worker plan Wednesday, which serves a framework for that aspect of Bramble's proposal. The bill also would provide for a "family permit" for spouses and children.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said GOP senators talked about Bramble's bill in caucus but did not reach a consensus.

"Basically, we're stewing on it," he said.

Jenkins called it "a little kinder, gentler" approach than the others. But "this is far from done. We're still knee-deep in it."

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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