Crime committed by illegal immigrants is getting the Legislature's attention this year, and an effort to crackdown on the problem made headway today.
A "strike force" bill passed a House committee unanimously Thursday, with the support of Utah's attorney general.
Police say the bust of a large Salt Lake City drug operation highlights the problem. The fact that it was run by illegal immigrants complicates the bust for police.
Sgt. Richard Lewis, with the Salt Lake City Police Department, said, "They're not legal here, with their status, so we have to do a lot of fingerprinting. It's taking a lot of time to identify who they are and what's going on."
Those kinds of issues are on the minds of people at the Legislature this year. House Bill 64 would create a multi-agency illegal immigration felony crime strike force. It would team Federal immigration agents with state and local police to deal with human trafficking, gangs, drugs and identity theft.
Rep. Brad Dee, House Majority Whip, said, "This is the one bill that actually rifle-scopes the real problem, and that becomes the felony crimes."
Other immigration related bills include requiring proof of citizenship to vote and to get a driver's license or ID card. Another studies the economic impact of illegal immigrants. And an all-encompassing Senate Bill 81 has a looming July 1 start date; an idea of pushing that date back is meeting resistance.
Sen. Scott Jenkins Senate Majority Whip, said, "I do think it's time, yeah I'm not going to stand in its way, and I've told others that."
Some Latinos say they feel "targeted" by some of the bills, even if they're not doing anything wrong.
Isaac Giron, who opposes the immigration bills, said, "It divides the community to say, the 'good immigrants', and the 'bad immigrants', and it's just a very troubling way of phrasing this whole issue, I think."
So far, the immigration issue has not gathered the large number of supporters and protesters it has in previous years. However, it still is a hot topic and will probably remain so during the remainder of the 2009 Legislative session.
Bills dealing with illegal immigration
- HB 64 Deterring Illegal Immigrants
- SB 39 Immigration Amendments
- SCR 01 Federal Waivers/Immigration
- HJR 25 Hire Only Properly Documented Workers
- SB 69 Citizenship Required to Vote
- SB 40 Legal Driver's License/ID Card
- HB 107 Impact of Illegal Immigrants