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Opponents of guest worker program press lawmakers for repeal

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SALT LAKE CITY — Opponents of newly passed legislation creating a guest worker program for illegal immigrants have launched a website to press lawmakers for a repeal.

Members of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration and some GOP delegates announced the launch of the site, It's designed to create a groundswell of objection to HB116, which passed the Utah Legislature earlier this month.

The bill was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert as part of a package of immigration bills described as the "Utah Solution." "We're concerned. We want to repeal this," said Cherilyn Eager, an organizer of the Repeal HB116 campaign. "We want to give these legislators who voted for it the opportunity to save face and repent a little bit, so we're going to have a pledge that they can sign."

Critics of HB116 saw public pressure persuade Herbert to call the Legislature into special session last week to repeal HB477, which would have restricted access to public records. Brandon Beckham, who designed the website, said he wants the governor to call another special session in June to repeal the guest worker bill.

We want to give these legislators who voted for it the opportunity to save face and repent a little bit, so we're going to have a pledge that they can sign.

–Campaign organizer Cherilyn Eagar

“Gov. Herbert should not have signed the bill. The (Republican) delegates now hope to emphasize the consequences of our elected officials’ actions while also encouraging them to step up and do the right thing — repeal HB116.” said Beckham, a Republican state delegate from Orem.

HB116 would set up a process for undocumented immigrants living in Utah before May 11, 2011, to obtain a guest worker permit. Applicants would be fined $2,500 — $1,000 for overstaying a visa — for entering the country illegally. The program, which requires federal approval, would take effect in July 2013.

Supporters of HB116, including business and religious groups which pushed for the Utah Compact, say polls show most Utahns support it.

"We think we've done something very innovative, something uniquely Utahn with HB116 and the Utah guest worker program that we should continue to pursue those avenues," said Salt Lake Chamber spokesman Marty Carpenter. "Whether you like the bill or disagree with the bill, everyone (should) be able to come together and say, ‘Let's push for a federal solution.'"

Beckham disagrees. He rallied nearly a hundred GOP delegates at the end of the 2011 legislative session and led an effort to collect 4,700 signatures on a petition urging Herbert to veto HB116.

The website, which describes the bill as "Utah's amnesty law," includes a petition for visitors to sign.

"This is being handled all online, through social networking, through Facebook, Twitter, and we're working all channels to put widgets on blog sites and to get this very viral," Eagar said.

Beckham said he also intends to put up a candidate pledge supporting not only a repeal but to work to that end.

"We're saying, 'We're going to hold you accountable. This is how we're going to do it,'" he said.

Candidates who don't sign the pledge won't get support from delegates who favor the repeal, Beckham said. "This is huge issue for us," he said. "This is not something that's gong to die away."


Story written by Dennis Romboy and John Daley.

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