New Sandstrom immigration enforcement bill emerges
HB497 • Measure expected to pass Senate, opponents still denounce it as bad legislation.
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Rep. Stephen Sandstrom unveiled the new version of his enforcement-only immigration bill Thursday, believing he had made enough changes to appease Senate leaders and to ensure its passage out of that chamber.

He was wrong.

The Orem Republican had been told to remove "objectionable language" linked to the old bill, HB70, because of its roots in Arizona's enforcement-only immigration law. That language included the words "reasonable suspicion" when directing a local law enforcement officer to determine the legal status of a person suspected of a crime.

Instead, Sandstrom brought out the new bill, HB497, with those words still in it — saying he had spoken with Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner, a former state senator, about keeping the words in.

"Reasonable suspicion is just a tool for law enforcement," Sandstrom said. "It shouldn't be demonized."

But within hours of submitting the new bill and following a conversation with Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, Sandstrom pulled out the language and said it was a clerical error that had been retained in the new copy.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said if those words had remained in the text of the bill, it wouldn't have passed the Senate.

"It did matter," Waddoups said. "Everyone associates that as dealing with racial profiling. We don't want to have that in there."

Waddoups said he didn't talk to Sandstrom on Thursday and said of the change: "I'd like to think he figured it out."

Sandstrom said he wasn't pressured to make the changes and felt it was the best thing to do to ensure he got his bill through. It will be first on the House's floor calendar Friday.

The Orem Republican said the changes now reflected in HB497 were "minor tweaks" and he said he was confident it would pass in the Senate as part of a deal that would propel a comprehensive immigration reform bill dealing with guest workers in SB288.

Sandstrom said changes in his bill were mostly in the procedures for law enforcement. He said on Class A misdemeanors or felonies, an arrest would automatically trigger checks with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Class B or C misdemeanors, officers may have the option to check legal status on a lawful stop — one of the key changes made a few weeks ago after a mandatory check was shown to have a cost burden on local police that could have been as high as $11.3 million.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the language in the bill now reflects what is already current practice for law enforcement.

Sandstrom also said to avoid requiring everyone in Utah to have identification on them at all times, a person may simply give verifiable information, such as name or address, to a police officer that leads to a valid driver license or other form of government-issued identification.

Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero, who opposed HB70, said his organization, a conservative think tank, doesn't support the new version, either.

And Michael Clara, executive director of the Utah Republican Hispanic Caucus, said it looked just like HB70.

"Representative Sandstrom's repackaging of his Arizona-style legislation is like putting lipstick on a pig," he said. "At the end of the day, it is still bad public policy no matter how he dresses it up."

On Wednesday, Waddoups killed HB70 in a committee — calling it "polarizing."

dmontero@sltrib.com