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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill proposing to allow Utahns to sponsor foreign nationals to come to the United States legally cleared a House committee Wednesday.
Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, said people who want move to the United States lawfully have been overlooked in the illegal immigration debate.
The federal government does one thing well and that's destroy things. They've destroyed this (immigration).
–Rep. Ken Ivory
"I contend we've largely locked the front door and made it difficult for folks to immigrate here, live the American dream," he said.
HB469 would create a sponsorship program in the Utah Department of Public Safety allowing residents to sponsor up to two individuals or a family from a foreign country to live in Utah. The sponsor would assume financial responsibility for the immigrants, he said.
Dougall said the program would pay for itself through application fees, which he estimated at $100 to $210.
Legislative attorneys attached a note to the bill saying the program would be unconstitutional because immigration is the purview of the federal government.
ACLU attorney Karen McCreary agreed with that assessment. She said foreign nationals need visas to enter the country, which only the federal government can grant. "There is no way this program could be legally implemented," she told the House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said states controlled immigration early in the nation's history.
"The federal government usurped power of immigration," he said. "The federal government does one thing well and that's destroy things. They've destroyed this."
Dougall said, "I don't think we'd be any worse shifting back and allow states greater autonomy in dealing with immigration."
The tea party, 9/12 groups and Utah Eagle Forum support the measure, which now moves to the House floor for consideration.