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Utah’s guest worker law, never implemented, may be repealed

First Published      Last Updated Feb 08 2016 02:16 pm

A bill that was at the heart of rancorous debates over immigration five years ago may soon be erased from the law books.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, announced Friday he is drafting a bill to erase the old HB116 passed in 2011.

It sought to create a state program to allow undocumented immigrants now in Utah to obtain a guest-worker permit — and stay in the state — by paying a fine, submitting to a background check and showing proficiency in English.

The original bill delayed its effective date until 2015, and later that was extended to 2017, to seek a waiver to federal law to allow it. Bramble signaled two years ago he might try to repeal it if a waiver was not obtained by this session.



"It doesn't look like we're going to get a waiver. We're not getting any traction," Bramble said. "We made a legitimate effort to solve the problem at the state level that requires cooperation from the federal government. They are neither cooperating, nor is Congress doing its job" on immigration.

When asked if he wanted to wait for the presidential election to see if a new president might be willing to give such permission to Utah, he said, "That's one possibility" if others want it. He said the law would not take effect without a federal waiver anyway, and he and others are not seeking a lawsuit to force the issue.

Bramble said the purpose of the immigration debate five years ago was to send a message to Congress that it is possible to find a rational, reasonable solution.

Debate on HB115 and other bills came as a compromise after some lawmakers initially sought to copy a tough law enacted by Arizona to require local law enforcement officers to ask for immigration status documents of anyone they suspected of being an undocumented immigrant. Huge protests resulted.

While the immigration debate is generally more calm now, Bramble said, "All the problems remain. Congress has not addressed it."

Bramble has also introduced SB129 to tweak Utah's law allowing undocumented immigrants to have driving privilege cards, instead of a full driver license.

Last year, he tried to require more robust background checks for them by requiring the FBI to do nationwide checks, instead of just western regional checks the state performed previously.

Bramble is now proposing to repeal that requirement because the FBI refused to provide complete background information.

 

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