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Conservative reformers get slammed

Published June 12, 2011 12:34 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Remember when right-wing activists were stammering that President Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress were pushing through health care reform without allowing Republicans to read the bill first?

How un-American, right?

Well, that's exactly what certain members of Utah's Republican Party conservative faction are doing with what had been a thoughtful patching together of a Utah illegal immigration bill: Calling for its repeal without having read the bill.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, one of the key architects of the much-maligned HB116, spoke to the executive committee of the Weber County Republican Party Wednesday night and faced a flurry of opposition to the bill that has a guest-worker component.

As the heated discussion progressed through the night, Bramble says it became clear that only one of the committee members in a group that is highly engaged in the political process had actually read the bill.

That has been the case in several instances where Republican conventions in Utah County and Salt Lake County passed resolutions to repeal the bill without understanding its details.

Bramble has proposed making changes to HB116 in the next legislative session, before it is slated to take effect in 2013. And now he is taking heat for that, leading up to the State Republican Convention on Saturday, where the repeal cry will once again take a front seat among the issue discussions.

But all of the criticisms of the bill — that it rewards illegal behavior, does not have a provision to protect against communicable diseases brought into the country by illegal immigrants, or that it doesn't protect the public against identity fraud — are addressed in HB116.

There are specifics in those provisions that are left to the regulators, as is the case with most legislation, Bramble said. Administrative rules are put in place to comply with the intent of the bill. But because of the clamor, Bramble says, he is proposing to lay the specifics in the bill before the next legislative session, in the hope of mitigating the current confusion.

Another organization being called a liberal front because of its position on illegal immigration is the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank that has been aligned with some of Utah's most right-wing political advocates on most issues.

Like Bramble, Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero is calling for improvements to HB116, but his suggestions, like Bramble's, are not to appease the fire-breathers who preach enforcement only.

Mero actually would like to see HB116 replaced with the second substitute of SB60, a bill that failed in the Senate. Several elements from SB60-S2 were incorporated into HB116. That bill was sponsored by a Democrat — Sen. Luz Robles of Salt Lake City. That in itself will earn Mero hisses and boos from the right-wing galleries. But, ironically, like Bramble's proposals it puts more sunlight on those now operating in the shadows and gives more options to law enforcement than the so-called enforcement only bills the HB116 repealers are demanding.

Mero calls those bills "catch and release," because they require local law enforcement officials to detain someone with insufficient proof they are here illegally.

They can only hold them for 48 hours, though, then must release them if federal officials haven't picked them up.

And Bramble points out that federal immigration head John Morton told a group of state legislators last week that 1.1 million deportation orders will never be acted upon and only 4 percent of illegal immigrants will be caught and sent home.

But who wants to hear that? It's easier to follow some talk-radio bumper-sticker-slogan hype about "throwing the thugs out" than coming up with detailed and comprehensive approaches to a complicated problem. —