Tempers calming after dispute over new immigration law

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Tuesday night when we first aired a story on a new immigration law, sparks flew, and they have not died down. At issue is enforcement of the law set to take effect this summer.

This is one of the most contentious stories we've ever aired. More than 1,000 people have weighed in so far on our comment boards. What has simmered down is the face-off between the Salt Lake City Police Department and the bill sponsor, even though they still don't seem to be on the same page.

The Salt Lake City Police Chief says his officers cannot and will not enforce this law. He made it clear on KSL Newsradio's "Doug Wright" Show, Wednesday.

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said, "When you start wandering into the area that law enforcement should take biased, racially motivated enforcement actions, there's 10 other places in the law that say we shouldn't do that."

This summer, Senate Bill 81 will make it more difficult for illegal immigrants to get jobs and access government services.

Burbank says enforcement of the law requires racial profiling. But bill sponsor, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, says that's not the intent.

Initially, he threatened retaliation. "If they don't want to obey the law then I guess we're going to have to in some way have some retribution against them for not enforcing the law. So that's my statement, and I would work hard to do that," Noel said.

Noel says the law requires officers to check immigration status after an arrest, not before.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff says it's up to his office, not local police, to enforce this law.

The Salt Lake City Mayor issued this statement: "Police cannot deter or solve crime if victims and witnesses are afraid to cooperate with the police because they might be deported."

The mayor talked with the Attorney General and said "Salt Lake City police officers will not begin to enforce immigration law."

Tony Yapias, a Latino community advocate says the law generates a lot of fear. "One of the biggest concerns that we have with this law is the racial profiling," he said.

Here on KSL.com we asked whether lawmakers should punish law enforcement agencies that do not enforce this law by withholding funding. By a two-to-one margin, people said, yes, they backed enforcement of the law.

While the mayor's office and Rep. Noel still appear to view the law differently, both say they have an understanding and do not expect retribution.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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