A pilot program carried by a Senate Democrat that would allow undocumented immigrants to register, live and work in Utah squeaked through a committee hearing Wednesday, now setting it up for a difficult fight on the Senate floor. Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City, saw SB60 pass by a 3-2 vote in front of a packed hearing room complete with a bomb-sniffing dog and heightened security after she received a threatening phone call last week.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, was the swing vote and appeared uncertain as to how he would vote until the last minute. He said he wanted to make sure the debate Robles started moving away from an enforcement-only, punitive approach to illegal immigration continued to have a voice in the process.
But he was conflicted, admitting that he had serious reservations about the bill in its current form. "I'm going to vote for this because I want to see robust discussion on this," he said. Robles' bill attempts to set up a pilot program in which Utah's Department of Public Safety oversees registering undocumented workers in the state through a permitting process that involves background checks, a fee structure and requirements to learn and become proficient in English. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for debate.