After carefully reading the Utah Compact and my bill "The Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act," I believe there is more that we agree upon than separates us. The first paragraph of the Compact suggests that immigration is a federal issue and I believe the federal government must do more to address the immigration problems within our country. It is encouraging to see Senator Hatch propose immigration legislation.
But the last sentence in the Compact says, "state leaders [should] adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah." My bill does not change federal immigration policies; it only provides the tools for local law enforcement to help enforce current federal immigration laws.
Furthermore, the Compact addresses the rule of law. Plato, who was one of the first people to ever discuss the rule of law, gave a great example of what must be done when laws seem unjust. In his "Crito," Socrates was sentenced to death for false allegations. Rather than contest his conviction because the law seemed unjust, Socrates followed the law and calmly swallowed a fatal dose of poison.
Socrates was innocent. When his friend Crito tried to convince Socrates to run away, he refused to do so because he knew that he had to follow the law. Socrates knew that if he resisted obeying the law, even though he was innocent, then others would justify their disobedience as well.
The rule of law is about self-imposed obedience to the law. Those who disobey the law should also be willing to accept the consequences. My bill supports the rule of law because it requires people to face the consequences of their actions. While the Compact says that it supports the rule of law, it contradicts itself by asking law enforcement to ignore violations of the law.
In regards to illegal immigrants, the only civil violation that they commit is over-staying a visa. Crossing the border illegally is a criminal misdemeanor and illegal re-entry is a felony. Additionally, a majority of illegal immigrants commit felonies using falsified Social Security Numbers and perjury on I-9 forms. Based upon these statements in the Compact, some people should be above the law and not face the consequences for violating the law.
Families are an essential component of our community. Sadly, citizens throughout our community break the law and needlessly break up their own families. Every day Utah is forced to break up families by sending citizens to prison for violations of the law.
The same issue exists with illegal immigration, but the break-up is self-imposed. The largest demographic of illegal immigrants is males from the ages of 18 to 35. These individuals have broken up their own families by coming here and leaving their families in their country of origin.
My bill focuses on those individuals who have violated our laws and are subject to the consequences for such violations. Given that the Social Security Administration estimates 75 percent of illegal immigrants use fraudulent or falsified Social Security numbers, many of the illegal immigrant families will be broken up because they have committed felonies. Federal law, which the Compact supports, requires prison sentences and deportation for felonies. Clearly, the law is aimed at keeping families together, but when people violate the law, families will be separated.
Legal immigrants play an important role in our economy. Many of them bring skills and knowledge that has benefited many of our industries. We should look for ways to encourage the federal government to implement a guest-worker program that will meet Utah's economic needs. My bill focuses on the enforcement, but I have been working with Senator Hatch to address the work-related needs within Utah.
The United States of America is a free society because of the Constitution and the rule of law. When people ignore the Constitution and the rule of law, our community becomes less free. We enjoy freedom as we hold ourselves responsible for our actions and as standards established by the Constitution and the rule of law.
The one aspect of the immigration debate I find disturbing is when people use the Compact to defend illegal immigration. Yet the Compact does not mention illegal immigrants. I agree with the principles of the Compact as they relate to legal immigrants. I, along with the majority of Utahns, fully support legal immigration.
My bill supports the Constitution and freedom by helping people obey current federal law. Utah does welcome immigrants because they have demonstrated a willingness to adhere to the principles that keep our society free. The Compact says the people will look at how we treat immigrants. I agree and we need to welcome all law-abiding immigrants into our free society in order to maintain that freedom and enforce the law against those who do not.
• State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, is the primary sponsor of HB 70 in the current legislative session.