Bill may delay implementing Utah immigration reforms
Sen. Curt Bramble is trying to push back the start date for two new laws that were once hotly contested parts of Utah immigration-reform compromises. He says federal waivers that are likely needed for them to work are not likely coming anytime soon.
On Wednesday he introduced SB203 to delay implementation dates until 2017 instead of the currently scheduled 2015.
One program would allow undocumented immigrants now in Utah to obtain a state guest-worker permit and stay in the state by paying a fine, submitting to a background check and showing proficiency in English.
The other is a temporary pilot program that would allow any U.S. citizen who is a resident of Utah to sponsor an undocumented immigrant not already in the state to live and work here but those immigrants could not leave the state.
"We knew that we would need a federal waiver" for those programs to work effectively, said Bramble, R-Provo. "That's why there's a delayed effective date." He does not see such a waiver coming anytime soon.
He said the programs were among a compromise package of laws enacted in 2011 to "demonstrate that elected officials can come together and address in a responsible manner immigration."
The guest-worker law was especially highly charged and viewed as unconstitutional by a wide range of groups from tea party members to attorneys who said it would invite the federal government to sue the state.
Bramble last year pushed the trigger date on the guest-worker law back from July 1, 2013 to 2015. He argued then that it would give Congress time to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which it then said it intended to do, and avoid any lawsuits with Utah over its new laws.
Now a year later, Bramble said, "Almost every day you read news reports out of Washington that they are discussing it." When asked how much hope he has that Congress will enact reform soon, he simply shrugged his shoulders.