Lawmakers return from immigration trip concerned about economy

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More than a dozen Utah lawmakers are back from a "fact finding" trip to Arizona. They traveled south to learn more about the implementation of S.B. 1070, even though much of it is still stalled in the courts.

KSL spoke with lawmakers -- Republican Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and Democratic Sen. Luz Robles -- about what Utah could learn.

The Utah officials returned from a their trip to Arizona this week with the understanding that a strict immigration law could possibly hurt Utah's economy.

The lieutenant governor, his chief of staff and 11 lawmakers traveled on their own dime to learn more about the implementation of Arizona's immigration bill, S.B. 1070.

The bill continues to draw attention from around the country, especially from the state of Utah -- so much so, legislators paid out of pocket to go.

We really feel like we got a 360-degree view of what they feel is the impact of 1070, positive and negative.

–Lt. Gov. Greg Bell

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said the trip was informative, if nothing else. "We really feel like we got a 360-degree view of what they feel is the impact of 1070, positive and negative," he said.

S.B. 1070 requires police and other state officials to determine immigration status if there's reasonable suspicion the person might be in the country illegally.

That controversial part is still being challenged in federal court. Still, Utah legislators thought traveling to Arizona would be educational.

Bell spent two days in Arizona along with his chief of staff, representatives Brad Daw, Brad Last, Ryan Wilcox, Jennifer Seelig, Rebecca Chavez-Houck, John Mathis and senators Michael Waddups, Scott Jenkins, Margaret Dayton, Karen Mayne and Luz Robles.

The group spent two days meeting with local representatives in business, politics, local law enforcement, Border Patrol, the Latino community and legal counsel for the state.

Bell says gauging the bill's success was difficult because it depended on who you talked to.

Some Arizona legislators claimed three-fourths of the state's populous regions support the measure, but the business community -- namely the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce -- painted an ugly picture of what 1070 is doing to the economy.

"They feel like they're seeing some PR fallout," Bell said, "that it's really tarnished the brand of Arizona. I don't know what of that is true."

"To hear the Chamber, the hotel association and others clearly stating the loss for them was a strong message," explained Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City. "I think that will resonate with anybody in terms of the economy and how we want to see the state of Utah in the future."

Robles does not believe a similar bill would work in Utah. She is drafting a bill with Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, that's supposed to be more comprehensive and less of a fiscal burden to the state.

Robles said 12 other legislators are creating their own bills as well. "I'm happy to know that there's more legislators thinking about solutions," she said. "There's not only an Arizona-type solution."

Both Bell and Robles agree that tourism and convention revenue are vital to the state's economy. They say legislators need to take that into consideration when considering any immigration bill.



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