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Immigration bill would sanction those hiring undocumented workers

Published February 7, 2012 5:45 pm

Immigration • Measure by Stephen Sandstrom would put teeth into the existing E-Verify law.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The sponsor of Utah's enforcement-only immigration law will launch from the House floor Wednesday an employer-sanctions bill that would suspend or revoke business licenses for those hiring undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said his bill will closely mirror Arizona's law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

"The bill is done," Sandstrom said, adding he expects the language of the bill to be available "soon."

The lawmaker said he has been meeting with a variety of groups to get buy-in on the proposal. Sandstrom also met with Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday and said that the governor approved of the legislation. Spokeswoman Ally Isom said Herbert was "supportive of the concept" and had yet to see the final language of the bill.

Herbert has signaled in past comments he's ready to see a tough version of a law that imposes penalties on employers who hire undocumented workers — saying last week it "is a step in the right direction."

And at the beginning of the session, Herbert was blunt.

"I think if we told them that if you hire someone illegally and knowingly we're going to punish them, they're going to stop doing it," Herbert said.

Sandstrom has also been meeting with the Salt Lake Chamber and The Sutherland Institute — two groups that battled hard against his enforcement-only immigration law, HB497, in the last legislative session.

He wasn't able get The Sutherland Institute to get on board with his new bill, however.

"I think it's an ineffective program," Sutherland President Paul Mero said. "I think it emphasizes the wrong parts of immigration policy. If the idea is to bring people to the surface of society — like Sutherland supports — the last thing you want to do is to be punitive and pass police power to business."

Sandstrom felt empowered to run the bill when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona's E-Verify law that imposed penalties up to revocation of businesses licenses for those that hired workers without legal documents.

The E-Verify program — a service the federal government provides free of charge to businesses — allows companies to register and then cross-check Social Security numbers with the applicants to verify they are legally able to work in the United States.

Supporters of the program cite it as the best way to weed out workers not legally able to work while opponents of E-Verify argue it's fraught with errors.

Utah already has an E-Verify law on the books, but it currently doesn't have any enforceable penalties.

The deadline to file bills was Friday, so Sandstrom said he will ask for permission to open the bill file on the floor Wednesday morning. He said he would've file it Friday, but was still negotiating support for it once the deadline passed.

Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero