Senate Backs Immigration Bill

Senate backs immigration bill

Amendment would delay implementation of proposed law until July 2009, though.

By Jennifer W. Sanchez
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 02/26/2008 01:46:55 AM MST

Lawmakers on Monday approved a comprehensive immigration bill that would attempt to allow officers to enforce immigration law and force some employers to verify their employees' documentation status.

The Senate supported the bill in a 24-5 vote after a 40-minute debate and days of tweaking. SB81 now heads to the House.

A major amendment to the bill was also approved Monday to push the law's effective date back to July 2009. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, said he doesn't think the 2009 date will hurt the bill, but the rule of law needs to be enforced sooner than later.

“I don't have the opportunity to select what laws I care to follow,” Hickman said. “In my opinion, this society is based on the rule of law; the economy will adjust to the market.”

House Majority Leader Rep. David Clark, R-Santa Clara, said he expects a “vigorous debate” on SB81 in the House this week and is leaning toward voting for SB81. “It's fair to say . . . the House will be in support of SB81,” Clark said.

Rep. Glenn Donnelson, R-North Ogden, who is sponsoring several other immigration-related bills, said he supports SB81 and won't make any amendments to it once it gets to the House. Donnelson's HB241 to repeal in-state tuition for eligible children of undocumented workers, prompted a protest Monday.

Ron Mortensen, spokesman of Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, agreed with Donnelson. “Seeing where we've been in the past to now, it's a good bill,” he said.

Among other things, the bill would enlist state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration statutes, force public employers and their contractors to verify the legal status of workers and make it a Class A misdemeanor to transport or shelter undocumented immigrants.

Before the SB81 vote, about 100 people, mostly students, gathered in the Capitol rotunda in a silent protest, where they posed for about five minutes.

Protesters declined to comment and handed out pieces of paper that read, “Democracy only works if everyone's voice is heard.”