Gov. Herbert Signs Immigration Bills

Billy Hesterman, Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), March 16, 2011

Gov. Gary Herbert signed four immigration bills into law Tuesday morning in the Gold Room of the state Capitol.

The governor fixed his signature upon a bill dealing with law enforcement of illegal immigrants, a guest worker program for undocumented workers, a sponsor-an-immigrant program and a migrant worker program. Herbert said the bills aren’t the end of immigration reform, and that the bills represent years’ worth of work to find better solutions to immigration.

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Herbert spoke specifically to the two most controversial bills–the law enforcement bill and the guest worker program–saying both bills are needed to reform immigration and that they both fit under his six guiding principles that he established for the Legislature to follow when crafting immigration bills. Herbert said the foundation of any immigration change needs to be the enforcement of the law.

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Herbert explained that the law enforcement bill will help enforce the rule of law but also fit within his guiding principles that state immigration laws need to be “color blind” and “race neutral.” The governor explained that only after an officer has charged someone with another crime and their identification cannot be verified, can law enforcement officials check the immigration status of an individual. Law enforcement officials will not be able to use racial profiling to enforce the law.

With a law enforcement measure, Utah will also have a program to allow undocumented workers in the state to obtain a guest worker permit. Although opponents to the program call the idea “amnesty,” Herbert says the guest workers are still considered illegal residents of the United States, and that the state by no means is issuing amnesty.

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The guest worker program allows undocumented workers in the state to apply for a guest worker permit that allows them and their families to remain in the state as long as they have employment. Those applying for the permit would be charged a fine of $1,000 if they immigrated into the U.S. legally but since have become illegal and $2,500 if they entered the U.S. illegally. The guest worker program will not go into effect until July 1, 2013, and in the meantime the state will ask the federal government for a wavier to implement the program.

Herbert says having both bills passed will help Utah put pressure on the federal government to take the lead in immigration reform.

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The bills are not without their critics, from both sides of the issue. Tea Party and 9/12 groups had asked Herbert to veto the guest worker bill. A Utah-based coalition of Latinos that oppose the enforcement bill started a two-week boycott of Utah businesses Monday. And the North Carolina-based Americans for Legal Immigration has criticized the guest worker plan, saying it’s an “amnesty” measure. The group’s president, William Gheen, said he is encouraging his supporters to cancel trips to Utah this year and specifically boycott any business that is a member of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

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