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Supreme Court ruling could affect Utah immigration law

Published May 26, 2011 3:44 pm

Immigration • Controversial HB116, set to take effect in 2013, has an employer provision similar to Arizona legislation.
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The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday upholding Arizona's law requiring businesses to use a federal employment verification program could be a precursor to validating at least a portion of Utah's controversial guest worker bill passed earlier this year.

Utah's law, HB116, has a similar provision that requires employers in the state to use E-verify, the federal database that allows employers to check the status of an employee.

The Arizona law, passed in 2007, also requires businesses to use E-verify and allows the state to suspend licenses of businesses that "intentionally or knowingly" violated requirements to verify the status of employees.

Utah's guest-worker bill, which isn't scheduled to take effect until July 2013, also calls for the revocation of a business license after the company has had three violations of hiring undocumented workers. The first violation would come with a $100 fine for each undocumented employee, and a second violation would carry a $500 fine for each worker. The law also caps the fines at $10,000.

But Utah's law also goes a step further than what Arizona passed in 2007. It establishes a state-run verification program called U-verify and would require businesses to register with it.

The guest-worker bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, is currently the subject to a repeal movement and has been criticized as unconstitutional by groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to tea party members. However, it was supported by a swath of religious, business and political groups as a comprehensive and compassionate approach to dealing with illegal immigration.

It also has several other components, including a fine-based system that would allow undocumented immigrants already in Utah to pay a $1,000 penalty for overstaying a visa and a $2,500 fine for entering the country and living in Utah without documents.

Bill supporters have set a start date of 2013 to give the state time to try to work out a deal with the federal government to allow Utah to run the guest-worker program despite critics' belief it is in violation of the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause.


Twitter: @davemontero




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