One of the major voices in Utah's debate on how to handle illegal immigration is calling for changes to Utah's comprehensive immigration law, House Bill 116.
The Sutherland Institute, a local conservative policy organization, has begun asking for the bill to be altered to reflect another immigration bill that was proposed during the 2011 legislative session but was never given serious consideration, Senate Bill 60.
Calling it the gold standard for state-based comprehensive immigration policy, Sutherland crafted SB 60 in partnership with Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City.
The bill followed many of the same ideas that are a part of the comprehensive immigration bill that Gov. Gary Herbert signed in March but the bill contains no provisions dealing with law enforcement of illegal immigrants, like HB 116 does. However, it does have a guest worker program.
SB 60 called for a guest worker permit to be created and issued to undocumented workers that lived within Utah's borders and also contained language that would punish businesses that knowingly hired undocumented immigrants who did not have the permit.
"Accountability is the key," Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, said in a released statement. "Utah has the right, as a sovereign state, to insist on personal accountability from anyone within its borders. Enforcement needs to know who is here in Utah so officers can effectively find the serious criminals hiding among a large group of people driven underground by the unintended consequences of enforcement-only policies."
Despite the support from Sutherland, many conservative lawmakers opposed the bill. Some were in favor of the comprehensive bill crafted by senate Republicans that later became HB 116, and others opposed both, calling for an enforcement-only style immigration bill.
Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Provo, the sponsor of the enforcement-only immigration bill that now has become law but is being challenged in court, has said in the past both HB 116 and SB 60 are unconstitutional. Republicans in Salt Lake and Utah counties both have voted to support resolutions calling for a repeal of HB 116 and the resolution will be voted on by state delegates at the state convention later this month.
Sutherland also proposed changes that should be made to HB 116 should the Legislature not adopt the change to make it more like SB 60. The institute called for eliminating the requirement in the law that guest workers have health insurance. They also call for an increase in the penalty for Utah employers that hire undocumented workers without a guest worker card and a reduction in the fee that illegal immigrants would pay to obtain the guest worker card.
SB 60 had bipartisan support as Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden signed on to be the house sponsor for the bill. The bill passed out of committee in the senate by a vote of 3-2. It was debated on the Senate floor but never voted on. The senate chose to circle the bill, a move to put the bill on hold, then returned the bill to the Senate Rules committee in the final days of the legislative session.