Rep. Stephen Sandstrom unveiled the latest changes to his enforcement-only immigration bill Thursday the most significant of which gives local police discretion whether to run legal-status checks on people detained for minor offenses.
The change came about after local governments balked at the fiscal note on HB70, which estimated the cost of enforcing it at between $5.3 million and $11.3 million. Sandstrom, R-Orem, said that by giving police the choice of running legal-status checks on those pulled over for Class B or C misdemeanors, it will "significantly lower" the cost of enforcement. He also plans to introduce legislation that would add revenue streams to the bill by attaching a fee to wire transfers of money between Utah and foreign countries as well as raising the fee on getting a driving-privilege card.
That, however, may be problematic now that Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, is looking to repeal the driver-privilege card.
Sandstrom also resisted criticism by some who feel his bill has been "watered down."
"We're trying to catch the criminal element in the illegal community," Sandstrom said. "That's the ones we want most."
The crux of the change in his bill is the requirement for police. Instead of directing that officers "shall" enforce federal immigration laws, it would say they "may" enforce them when dealing with minor infractions.
"They [local police] did not want to have to run in the soccer mom that is taking her kids to soccer practice and happens to be speeding, when they could go after the felony offenders that happen to be here illegally," Sandstrom said.
But Tony Yapias, who attended Sandstrom's news conference, said the proposed law remains unconstitutional and that it isn't really different than before.
"It's been dressed up in a new dress a little different color but the body of the bill is still the same," Yapias said.
Sandstrom's changes also included defining "reasonable suspicion" when investigating a criminal violation. Under the latest version, that suspicion would apply to anyone not able to produce a state or tribal identification including a driver license.
He also said he has the support of local law enforcement though he wouldn't provide specific names other than Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner, a former state senator, who has been a steady supporter of the proposed measure, even before the changes.
To prove he doesn't believe the bill is watered down, Sandstrom had some of the most ardent anti-illegal-immigration activists flanking him during his comments at the Capitol and said that those who are claiming it's a weaker bill are opponents simply "casting aspersions" on it.
Among those who spoke in support of the changes were Utah Minuteman Project Chairman Eli Cawley and Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration spokesman Ron Mortensen. Sandstrom was also joined by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, as well as a variety of tea party groups.
Sandstrom also said he has met recently with the LDS Church and briefed its officials about the revisions.
"I've never been told they're supportive, and I've never been told they were not supportive," he said.
Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the LDS Church, wouldn't confirm the faith's leaders met with Sandstrom only saying that they've met "with many people who have a wide variety of views" on immigration.
Sandstrom said that since he made the changes, he has picked up 33 co-sponsors for his bill in the House. Before the changes, Sandstrom said he had 28 co-sponsors.
But Stan Rasmussen of the Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute a conservative think tank that has opposed Sandstrom's bill said he wasn't surprised the proposal had strayed from the Arizona model.
"Let him keep whittling away at it," Rasmussen said.
According to Pew Hispanic Center, there are about 110,000 undocumented people living in Utah roughly 4 percent of the state's population.
Up for debate
P Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's enforcement-only immigration bill HB70 comes up for its first public hearing Friday.
When • 2 p.m.
Where • 30 House Building (office building on the west end of the Capitol complex)
Who • Sandstrom is to present the bill to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee