Utah seeks to study costs, benefits of illegal immigration
The committee established by the Legislature to study and advise on immigration voted unanimously Monday to seek bids for a report that would do a cost-benefit analysis of illegal immigration in Utah.
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who heads the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration, said that without an impartial, objective analysis, it would be difficult to provide relevant data to the Legislature when it takes up immigration-related bills next session.
Cost might be an issue, given that the Legislature didn't fund the commission.
Amanda Eccles Jex, legal counsel for the 27-member commission, said she was quoted a price of $50,000 to get a study from the University of Idaho. Several commission members said they would like to get bids from Southern Utah University in Cedar City or Dixie State College in St. George, a suggestion seemingly endorsed by commission member and outgoing Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville.
"The southern Utah people seem much more [attuned] to the issue," he said. He also asked for Jex to check with Brigham Young University on whether it would be able to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Monday marked the commission's third meeting the first attended by Janalee Tobias, a commission member who complained she never knew about her appointment until after the first two meetings had taken place.
Tobias, an activist against illegal immigration, used the first meeting to request a series of items be tackled at the June 4 meeting, including asking employers who use E-Verify to address the commission and explain why it's necessary.
The commission also directed Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to draft a memorandum of understanding to initiate Utah's entry into an agreement with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. That pact would allow Utah to get workers legally by tapping the federal H2 visa program.
HB466, passed by the Legislature in 2011, called for a pilot program to see if Utah could directly access workers from Nuevo Leon. The law doesn't violate federal immigration rules because the state must comply with all H2 visa rules, including first advertising open jobs in Utah and neighboring states for U.S. citizens. It also requires guest workers be paid the prevailing wage as established by the U.S. Department of Labor.
"We'd love to get these documented guest workers jobs," Shurtleff said.