Washington • An anti-illegal immigration group angered over Utah legislation to create a state-based guest-worker program is taking out its angst against someone who didn't write it, vote on it and says he has no position on it: Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Raleigh, N.C.-based Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee urged Utahns to oust Hatch and Gov. Gary Herbert for supporting "amnesty for illegal aliens," an allegation that didn't sit well with Hatch.
"I do not support amnesty and in fact have voted against it even during Ronald Reagan's tenure as president," Hatch said in an open letter to the group posted on his Senate website.
The senator, who is facing a tough re-election next year, called on the group to correct information it was sending Utahns and the news media, noting that he has not taken a position on HB116, which would authorize the state in two years to launch its own guest-worker program.
Monday, the group fired back.
"Our sources on the ground in Utah tell us that you are in cahoots on this plan to deflect amnesty concerns on the state level and away from your deplorable voting record that shows a clear pattern of support for the mass invasion of America," ALIPAC President William Gheen said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who is weighing a challenge to either Hatch or Herbert, said he believes state HB116 is amnesty and should be vetoed.
"I find it to be unconstitutional," said Chaffetz, who in 2008 beat then-Rep. Chris Cannon partially on an anti-immigration campaign. "Clearly we can agree that the federal government is failing in this regard but there are certain things the federal government should be doing and other things the state should be doing."
Chaffetz said if he were governor, he would veto the bill.
Herbert, who is up for re-election next year, has not said whether he will sign, veto or allow the legislation to go into law without his signature.
Hatch's office declined to respond to ALIPAC's second letter and pointed to the senator's first response, which his office posted online but did not send to reporters.
"My bill has been endorsed by Numbers USA and has had other positive reviews by the Center for Immigration Studies and the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation," Hatch's letter toALIPAC said. "I hope that you will respect my position and I strongly urge you to correct the information posted on your website."
Gov. Gary Herbert has 20 days from the end of the Legislature until March 30 to sign or veto legislation. If he does neither, legislation goes into effect without his signature.