Immigration: Is SB 81 being ignored?

This is an archived article that was published on in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After some years of discussion and delay, Senate Bill 81, the anti-illegal immigration law, was implemented four months ago.

One of the requirements of the law was that all government employers must use an employment verification program, such as E-Verify. This law was designed to assist in enforcing federal law against hiring "unauthorized" aliens. An additional requirement was that all businesses being awarded contracts by public entities must also verify legal employment -- proof of U.S. citizenship or a valid work visa.

An Oct. 29 report of E-Verify users, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, indicates that only four of 29 county governments have registered to use E-Verify. Further, only 30 percent of Utah school districts have signed up and the number of municipalities is minuscule. Utah currently has about 80,000 employers. The DHS report indicates that around 1800, or barely 2 percent, are now using the program. Even before the effective date of SB 81, about 900 companies were using the program.

While it is reassuring that more companies have decided to use the verification option, if government entities are not using E-Verify, it can be reasonably assumed that enforcement of awarding contracts to E-verify companies is also being ignored.

It is possible that some public entities may be using SAVE or other employment verification programs. SAVE was instituted in 1987 after the last amnesty to preclude another mass of illegal influx. It obviously had little effect. SAVE charges a fee for the information, whereas E-Verify has no user fees.

Why is verification important? Federal law specifically prohibits the hiring of unauthorized immigrants. The Utah Legislature passed the state law in an attempt to stem the ever-increasing costs of services provided to those ineligible to reside in this country that, in some cases, are required to be provided with services.

In particular, by law, all children residing in this country must be provided with a K-12 education paid for with taxpayer money. A 2007 Utah legislative audit reported the education costs for undocumented children at $85 million. That estimate was probably low and has undoubtedly risen. Many studies have reported other costs that can be attributed to unauthorized or illegal immigrants. Utah is one of the few states to offer in-state tuition rates to illegals, in violation of federal law.

A similar California law was declared in violation of federal law and required California to refund the excess tuition paid by U.S. citizens. The issue is now before the California Supreme Court and if upheld will cost Utah millions of dollars in repayment of excess nonresident tuition to those U.S. citizens who attended Utah colleges.

E-Verification is a step in instituting the policy of "attrition through enforcement" in reducing the presence of unauthorized immigrants. Simple enforcement of current state and federal immigration laws will solve the supposed problem of having to round up all the illegals for deportation. Restricting employment, benefits and other enticements will facilitate the process of self-removal.

Without jobs and benefits, unauthorized immigrants will tend to return to their respective homelands. Self-deportation would allow them to retain the earnings they may have accumulated and to use the education, experience and learning they may have attained to, hopefully, correct the problems of those home countries.

Law enforcement, and government in general, should also be ensuring compliance with federal law against aiding, abetting and encouraging or inducing "an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing ... that such ... residence is or will be in violation of law." Many actions in Utah seem to clearly defy this law.

"Attrition through enforcement" could cause millions of jobs to become available to those now unemployed due to the current economic downturn, and allow eager and able U.S. teenagers to get jobs and learn to work.

Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement calls on local government officials to comply with SB 81 and for citizens to encourage their local governments to do so. We also encourage law enforcement and attorneys to insist on such compliance and the Utah Legislature to audit SB 81 compliance.

Robert Wren is chairman of UFIRE, Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement.