Three years after passing first-of-its-kind legislation asserting the state’s role on regulating immigration, Utah legislators have postponed implementation while awaiting a federal waiver to act on the law.
The bill the Legislature passed in 2011 laid out a state program that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a state-issued guest-worker permit, pay a fine, obtain a background check and stay in the state.
The law was scheduled to take effect in 2015, but SB203, which passed the House Wednesday and is headed to Gov. Gary Herbert, would delay that to 2017.
Several members expressed frustration that they had to delay action on the bill, which they said was passed in 2011 at considerable political risk.
“We exercised a lot of legislative resolve to say to the federal government, ‘You aren’t doing the job with immigration, so as a state we’re going to have to tackle it,’ ” said Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan.
“It was a long, hard battle and we did the right thing, in my opinion. So for us to delay implementation for this for two more years is extremely frustrating.”
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, has said if the federal government doesn’t act on immigration reform or grant the state a waiver by the 2017 deadline, he would likely work to repeal Utah’s immigration law.
Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, said passing the 2011 immigration bill “ripped this body up on both sides.”
“I don’t know that we’ve done any work to get us closer to implementation of this bill,” he said. “I just know we’re no closer today than we were in 2011.”