SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's guest worker program for immigrants living in the country illegally is set to be pushed back another two years.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, has drafted legislation that will move back the implementation of the program from July 2015 to July 2017. The program was originally set to start in 2013, but the Legislature opted to push back the date to 2015 in the 2013 session.
Bramble said the latest delay is to align the bill with another immigration-related program that could begin in 2017 -- the so-called "sponsor an immigrant" program created by former House member and now state auditor John Dougall.
Both the guest worker program and Dougall's "sponsor an immigrant" program would require a waiver from the federal government for them to be implemented. Bramble said it was unknown if the feds would ever allow those programs to go forward but stated that it was clear Washington was not going to do much to alter immigration policy in the nation anytime soon.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told members of Utah's House of Representatives on Tuesday that he does not anticipate Congress addressing immigration reform in the upcoming year. He said polling has suggested that immigration policy changes are not a top issue for Americans right now.
The guest worker program was created in 2011 by the Legislature. The program would allow immigrants who are not in the country legally to apply for a guest worker permit if they paid a fine for being in the country illegally. They then would be subject to a background check and have to turn over to the state any identification numbers they had been using to work in the state.
The bill was deemed unconstitutional by the Legislature's attorneys as the U.S. Constitution clearly dictates that all immigration laws should be handled by Congress. If implementation moved forward right now, Utah businesses most likely would reject the permit for fear of breaking federal law by employing anyone living in the country illegally.
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