A sweeping anti-illegal immigration proposal from Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, found little support among his fellow Senate Republicans Tuesday.
The measure would make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to get jobs or obtain public benefits. Hickman remains confident he'll find the support he needs even though Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said Hickman's bill needs more work.
"There are things Sen. Hickman (is) going to have to work through to get support, enough support to get it passed," Valentine said after a three-hour closed-door Senate GOP caucus meeting.
And Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. this week told the Deseret Morning News editorial board that he'd take a close look at the economic impact of any such legislation.
Hickman's bill is still being drafted and only what he considers highlights have been released. His concept has earned the support of the Washington County GOP.
"There were some questions, we didn't get into all of it," Hickman said. "People were interested and said they would be happy to look at it."
Valentine said the Senate GOP isn't supporting any bill yet.
"However, Sen. Hickman made a good presentation to the caucus today," Valentine said. "There were a lot of questions, especially on the transportation of illegal aliens provisions."
The transportation provisions would create a Class A misdemeanor for transporting, concealing or harboring undocumented immigrants, knowing or in reckless disregard of their illegal status.
There are political problems, too, with the bill. Hickman is at odds with some members of the Senate Republican leadership, making it likely that even with revisions, it won't be his bill that wins caucus support. Still, Hickman said he's confident that he'll be able to successfully carry the measure.
"If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't run the bill," Hickman said. "At this point, I'm going to run the bill."
Many of the provisions in Hickman's measure could also be considered separately, as some other lawmakers are coming up with piecemeal provisions.
Huntsman told the Deseret Morning News that he's disappointed that Congress has failed to pass a comprehensive immigration measure and expressed concern that a lack of federal action could lead to state efforts that have an adverse economic impact.
"I think we're going to see states, unfortunately, begin kind of a patchwork across the country of different approaches that I think are completely inconsistent with the predictability that businesses need when they invest and enter a marketplace," Huntsman said.
The governor also made it clear that he opposes repealing a state law that allows some undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition, saying, "I think we should not hold the sins of the parents against the kids who were probably, in many cases, so young they had no say or no control of their journey in life."
Hickman said undocumented students who attend a Utah high school for three years and graduate would still qualify for in-state tuition under his bill. However, a repeal of Utah's tuition law could again be carried as a separate measure, as it has for the last few years by Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden.
Huntsman said if any immigration proposals make it to his desk, he'll "hear them all out," but will also keep in mind potential implications."I'm going to look at it, first of all, is it consistent with the rule of law, second of all, what is right for our economy," Huntsman said. "Third of all, how do you deal realistically with people who are already here and have been here and have raised families in this uncertain environment."