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Legislature hands-off on immigration

Published March 9, 2012 12:22 am

Politics • After a year dominated by the volatile issue, lawmakers steer clear this time around.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Legislature passed on immigration this session, smothering several bills aimed at reversing what lawmakers did in 2011 but also likely setting up the issue as a lightning rod when lawmakers convene in 2013.

Rep. Chris Herrod was first with HB300, a measure attempting to replace Utah's guest-worker law that was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert a year ago. That bill would've supplanted HB116, which was set up as a visa program run by the state that aims to allow undocumented immigrants living in Utah to pay fines and submit to background checks in exchange for working legally in the state.

It has a trigger date of July 2013, but Herrod's proposal sought to remove that date and instead wait for congressional approval before starting a guest-worker program that would be open only to undocumented immigrants in Utah who never used a fake Social Security number.

Seeing his bill stagnating without a hearing, he finally tried to lift it from the House floor, but got into a heated exchange with Rep. John Dougall, R-Highland. He also drew the ire of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, because he tried to make the move while she was out of the chamber.

Herrod's wasn't the only immigration bill to founder.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, spent months trying to craft an employer-sanctions bill that was modeled after — but less harsh than — Arizona's E-Verify law, which had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it became clear to him that his measure, HB477, was never going to get out to the floor for a vote and he eventually gave up on it — despite noting Herbert had publicly said he wanted an E-Verify bill to emerge from the Legislature.

On the Senate side, Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, pulled off the biggest upset by getting his proposal to repeal the driving-privilege card for undocumented immigrants, SB170. But it never got to the floor. Senators also quickly killed his plan to repeal HB116.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero