Herbert plans to sign immigration reform if passed

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert says immigration tops his list of priorities. He told reporters Thursday he's willing to sign an immigration law like Arizona's if the Utah Legislature passes one next year.

As anger, frustration and pressure about immigration reform builds, Herbert made a bold prediction Thursday.

"I expect we'll have a Utah immigration reform bill introduced and passed in the 2011 Legislative Session," Herbert said during his monthly KUED news conference.


In fact, the governor says it's mandatory Utah pass something.

"We need to work together on a solution, because the aggravation and the frustration is growing," Herbert said. "And it does not appear, at least it hasn't in the past, that the federal government is going to take the situation on and do what they need to do."

An Arizona-type immigration law has already been drafted at Utah's Legislature, but the governor declined to give ideas about what he'd like to see, saying he wants a dialogue with a number of groups.

"I think there's a lot of different groups that will come together and discuss this in a rational way, and hopefully come up with an immigration bill," he said.

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Arizona's law calls for police to use a "reasonable suspicion" criteria on traffic stops. It also targets employers who hire and transport illegal immigrants. Among those opposed to the Arizona-type law: Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. He says a new survey is one of many saying violent crime among illegals is not higher than the general population. He fears unintended consequences from alienating the wider Latino population.

"This fervor that we're getting rid of criminals is just not true," Burbank said. "We've demonstrated time and time again that it's not true. Police officers should keep the community safe by targeting the people who are committing the crime."

While Herbert may or may not agree with Burbank on his stance over the Arizona immigration law, but says he wants to discuss the issue with Burbank.

"I think there's some concerns about what this does to the law enforcement community, and I think their voice needs to be heard," Herbert said.

The governor says law enforcement agencies and members of the Latino population will be among those invited to the table to talk about Utah's version of immigration reform.


Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Paul Nelson reporting.

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