Release of Utah immigration bill sparks strong responses

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah lawmaker unveiled his anti-illegal immigration bill to a crowd of hecklers at the State Capitol Friday.

Those in the crowd made it clear they are against the bill, calling it divisive.


"We see this as a way to divide and break up our communities," said Gregory Lucero, with the Revolutionary Students Union.

But Rep. Stephen Sandstrom is not fazed. His bill, patterned after Arizona's controversial law, is moving forward. [CLICK HERE to read more details about Sandstrom's bill]

Democratic lawmakers respond to Sandstrom's bill

Sandstrom's proposal sparked strong responses from critics and raised questions from Democratic lawmakers, who say the bill is too narrow and that a possible solution to the immigration issue needs to be more comprehensive.

Senate Minority Leader Patricia Jones said, "I know there is great passion on both sides of this issue, and I think we need to look at it, the whole parts of it -- not just one single part, but the impact on families, the impact on businesses, the impact on religious communities and on all of us."

House Minority Leader David Litvack said he applauds Sandstrom's effort to make the bill transparent, but he has questions -- like the cost of the bill to local law enforcement, among other things.

"I have a lot of concern about the health and safety welfare of the immigrant community," Litvack said. "That's the problem with just having an enforcement solution."

Bill is not a federal fix, could make matters worse

Political analysts say states are forced to come up with their own solutions to illegal immigration, a problem that is more than states can handle.

Some of these issues require a federal fix, ultimately, and the state solutions may make things worse before they make them better.

–Kirk Jowers, Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"Some of these issues require a federal fix, ultimately, and the state solutions may make things worse before they make them better," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

House and Senate Democrats also say Sandstrom's bill is an approach to immigration reform that may just make the issue worse.

"I'm disappointed that this focuses only on the enforcement aspect of this immigration issue, and I don't think this is going to solve anything," Litvack said.

Analysts say many other states are watching to see how Utah handles immigration reform.

Sandstrom's bill the first of many

According to Jones, there will be other bills following -- from both sides of the aisle. She said Sandstrom's bill is just the first step in addressing a very complex issue.

"I know that there are other bills that are protected right now," Jones said. "[The fact that] this one was protected until right now tells me there will be a lot of discussion, a lot of input."

"I'm sure we'll see one from the Democrats, and hopefully we'll see another competing bill from Republicans that takes a different approach," Jowers said.

Because Sandstrom released his bill first, it's getting a lot of attention -- which may not be a bad thing.

"The advantage for Sandstrom is now he has one of the first major bills out, and so discussion will have to be revolved around his approach to immigration," Jowers said.

Sources tell KSL News other legislators are keeping their bills closely guarded. No word yet on who will make the next version public.

Governor issues statement on immigration bill

Meanwhile, Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement Friday regarding Sandstrom's legislation release, saying the bill is "a good starting point to further public discussion."

The statement reads, in part: "In Utah, we will have strong and meaningful illegal immigration reform -- a ‘Utah solution' that focuses on security, public safety and protecting taxpayer interests, while also recognizing the very real human side of this issue. Absent any meaningful leadership from the federal government on this issue, individual states are being forced to take up the charge."

Along with the statement, Herbert released what he calls guiding principles for immigration reform.

"I have outlined six guiding principles that should be inherent in Utah's efforts. Simply, these are: respect for the law; the federal government must take responsibility; private sector accountability; respect for the humanity of all people; efforts must be fair, colorblind and race-neutral; law enforcement must have appropriate tools; and relieve the burden on taxpayers."

The full text of Herbert's immigration reform guiding principles is available HERE.


Story compiled with contributions from Anne Forester and Jennifer Stagg.

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