Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Republican lawmaker wants Utah to adopt an immigration law similar to one in Oklahoma that requires the verification of immigration status for people applying for public jobs and those who are arrested.
"Since other states are picking up the responsibility, I thought it was time Utah did the same," said Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George.
Hickman and other Utah lawmakers say they are joining their colleagues nationwide in writing legislative solutions to curb illegal immigration because the U.S. Congress has failed to do it.
Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, and other lawmakers said immigration will be one of the top issues, along with education and health care, when the session starts in January.
"I get jumped by people in my area" who ask why we haven't done anything about illegal immigration, Valentine said. "The federal government has failed to take action, and this is becoming a profound problem."
In hope of passing a comprehensive anti-illegal immigration proposal in Utah, Hickman filed a bill request about a month ago that is to be "closely tailored" after the Oklahoma bill signed into law in May. He said illegal immigration in southwestern Utah is a big concern and a problem that residents there consistently complain to him about.
"We as citizens are expected to obey the laws, but then we have a segment of our community (that) is not expected to obey the law," Hickman said. "Two different standards are being applied."
The Oklahoma law calls for public employers and their contractors to verify their employees' immigration status. It authorizes the attorney general to negotiate an agreement among federal immigration enforcement officials and state and local law enforcement agencies. It allows some undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition as long as they can prove they are trying to seek legal status.
Hickman said a similar law in Utah is needed to help control the attraction of undocumented workers and their families to the state, as well as to help with enforcing immigration laws.
"It will give us a reasonable approach to recognize and identify those folks who are here illegally," he said.
Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, has tried for years to repeal a law that allows some undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition in Utah. He said he doesn't know if he'll try again.
Donnelson said he will likely support Hickman's bill and sponsor it in the House if asked.
"I'll sure take it, you bet," Donnelson said.
Utah Minuteman Project spokesman Eli Cawley said Hickman's proposal is a good start, but it has to have more substance. He said he would like the proposed bill to repeal the state driving privilege card and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants as well as force public and private businesses to verify their employees' legal status.
"They walked across the border. Then they can walk back if we take away the freebies," said Cawley, who oversees the anti-illegal immigration group.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)