SALT LAKE CITY — To make his Arizona-style immigration enforcement bill a more uniquely Utah effort, state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom outlined two big possible changes for Gov. Gary Herbert during an hour-long meeting on Monday.
First, and most surprisingly, Sandstrom said that he and Sen. Luz Robles — who are polar opposites on immigration — are teaming together for a "carrot and stick" approach to curtail illegal immigration. His enforcement bill would be the "stick," and he said Robles, D-Salt Lake, may provide a "carrot" companion bill to help streamline permission for migrant workers to enter Utah.
Second, Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he is trying to take extra measures to ensure that his bill will not allow racial profiling. "It specifically prohibits racial profiling. It's the first time in state law we've actually specifically prohibited racial profiling," he said.
After the private meeting, Sandstrom told the Deseret News that everything is still a work in progress — but he hopes to unveil his bill to the public later this week after ongoing tweaking.
Herbert's spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said the governor "was pleased to hear that Rep. Sandstrom was working with others on possible companion legislation, and encourages all those involved in this conversation to continue to engage in discussions to find the best possible Utah solutions."
Arizona's attempt to control illegal immigration by allowing local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of anyone stopped for other offenses was blocked last month by a federal court. Sandstrom says that has led him to make some changes — including "taking out some of the more punitive or severe parts of the bill."
Sandstrom said Herbert told him that he especially wants to ensure that the bill would not "cause harassment of people who are here legally or citizens who happen to be of certain national origins. So we discussed at length some of the things we could do to make sure that doesn't happen."
Sandstrom said that includes specifically outlawing racial or ethnic profiling, "meaning someone can't be pulled over because of their national origin."
He said he is trying to add safeguards to ensure police do not stop people for minor offenses as an excuse to ask about their immigration status. "We've made it so you can't be arrested or questioned for loitering at Home Depot (where many day laborers gather and hope for work), things like that."
Sandstrom also said that his bill "doesn't in any way go beyond federal law. The Arizona law did, so I think there is a big difference now. So we are just enforcing whatever the parameters are in federal law right now."
Sandstrom also said he has talked to "several legislators out there" about "carrot" legislation to go with his "stick."
Specifically, he said he and Robles — who is seen as a voice for immigrants — have been discussing a variety of options.
Robles could not be reached for comment Monday, but did tell El Observador, a Spanish-language newspaper published Monday by the Deseret News, that she was working with Sandstrom on trying to resolve immigration issues.
Sandstrom says he likes an idea she has to develop a pilot program with federal authorities to streamline permission for migrant workers from abroad to enter Utah temporarily to work and then return home, helping reduce the need to immigrate illegally.
He said they have also discussed coming up with a program to streamline consideration for children of illegal immigrant parents to gain some sort of legal status, "because some of them came here as 2-year-olds and don't know anywhere else but Utah."
Sandstrom said he does not like an idea — pushed by several legislators — to provide "worker privilege cards" to illegal immigrants already in the state.
"I don't necessarily like the worker privilege card, because if we just flat out say, 'You're here in our state illegally, so here's a working privilege card,' that's amnesty. I want to make it very, very clear I am opposed to amnesty in any form," Sandstrom said.
He also said his enforcement bill is especially needed if other "carrot" bills pass, because they might attract additional illegal immigration without a tough enforcement bill.
"If we have some type of migrant worker program, I'd worry about a proliferation of illegal people coming into our state and making the problem worse instead of better unless we have a tough enforcement bill," Sandstrom said.
Herbert has yet to endorse any specific immigration reform legislation.
Welling said the governor again stressed six guiding principles in his meeting with Sandstrom. They include such things as respect for the law, the federal government has responsibility to secure the borders, a Utah solution should respect the humanity of all people, law enforcement should have appropriate tools, and reform should relieve the burden on taxpayers.