This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As a Capitol rally ended Wednesday for Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's bill targeting illegal immigration, protesters from both sides started yelling, waving signs in one another's faces, bumping and elbowing - and Utah Highway Patrol troopers rushed in to separate them.
So much for the civil dialogue on immigration called for by the new Utah Compact. Both sides blamed the other for the confrontation and high emotions.
"They are pushing a bill that brings out this sort of emotion. They try to claim that most legal immigrants support their bill, and that's just not true. It's dangerous," said Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino, of Sandstrom and his allies.
But Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, was heckled earlier as he spoke in support of Sandstrom's bill at the rally. He tired of it and said that his side is trying to be civil, while the other side "feels perfectly comfortable in interrupting a presentation just because they disagree."
The rally - which attracted about 80 people to the Capitol's House Office Building - was staged by supporters of Sandstrom's bill to make clear they will push it despite the new Utah Compact, backed by many high-powered civic and religious groups, including the LDS Church.
That compact opposes immigration policies that unnecessarily separate families through deportation; says immigration is a federal - not state - issue; favors focusing resources on criminal and not civil issues (in which it classifies illegal immigration); and calls for civil dialogue on the issue.
Sandstrom has said the compact, and the LDS Church's support of it, specifically targets his bill - although he also says it complies with the guiding principles of the compact.
"Contrary to what you may have heard in recent days, my bill, the Utah Immigration Enforcement Act, is alive and well," Sandstrom said at the rally. "This bill will become law in the state of Utah."
He added, "We need to balance compassion with the rule of law. ... My bill specifically targets the criminal elements that are here illegally in the States - the people who are stealing the identity of our children, the people who are taking advantage of our social welfare programs and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayers of Utah."
The main thrust of Sandstrom's bill is requiring law officers to verify the legal status of any person they stop if "reasonable suspicion" exists that they are in the country illegally.
The lawmaker appeared with his own compact, of sorts, in support of his bill, called the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration. Standing with him were representatives from its member groups and allies ranging from the Utah Eagle Forum to the Utah Minuteman Project, SaveUtah, Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, and the American Leadership Fund.
That coalition also announced the addition of a new member group called Legal Immigrants for Immigration Law Enforcement.
Arturo Morales Llan, who heads that group, said legal immigrants such as he feel that "for far too long, the laws of this exceptional country have been ignored, violated and become a mockery by those who come here illegally." He said that hurts those who attempt to immigrate legally.
Sandstrom added that he believes most legal immigrants support his bill as well.
As the rally concluded, critics began shouting at Sandstrom and his allies, and some of Sandstrom's supporters started yelling back.
Sam Rengel, a member of United for Social Justice, was among the first to yell at Herrod and Sandstrom as they left, and Gary Welch quickly stood up to him as TV news cameras rushed toward their argument.
Welch told The Salt Lake Tribune, "I'm not a member of any group. I just came because I like the [Sandstrom] bill. That guy [Rangel] was just really out there," he said, explaining why he argued with him.
Rangel said he spoke out because "they are trying to sell fear."
Melodia Gutierrez, of United for Social Justice, and Michael Picardi, of the Progressive Coalition of Utah, were ushered away by Highway Patrol troopers. Neither was arrested. Troopers said they were just trying to separate and calm emotional people.
Gutierrez said she was trying to shield a friend who was being bumped by protesters, and Picardi said he came to her aid by tapping on the shoulder of a man who was bumping Gutierrez, "and he started yelling that I was assaulting him."
Utah Immigration Enforcement Act
Among other provisions, the bill would:
Require law officers to verify the legal status of any person stopped, detained or arrested when there is "reasonable suspicion" that they are in the country illegally.
Ban consideration of race, color or national origin in determining "reasonable suspicion."
Expand felony law against transporting undocumented immigrants so that the violation could be for any distance, instead of the current provision of 100 miles or farther.
Make it a felony to knowingly or recklessly encourage or induce an undocumented immigrant to come to Utah or to reside in the state.