Lawmakers continue battle over immigration reform
Immigration • Driving privilege card program still intact; Sides await governor's action on bills.
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Rep. Chris Herrod attempted Wednesday to hijack a Senate bill aimed at imposing tougher background checks for undocumented immigrants obtaining driving privilege cards and turn the proposal into an outright repeal of the cards.

But his gambit failed 50-22.

"Turnabout is fair play," Herrod said. "Sometimes we can hijack other people's bills as well."

The bill, SB138, has been amended, substituted and debated constantly throughout the legislative session. Originally, Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, sought to repeal the driving privilege card but Sen. Curt Bramble substituted the bill on the Senate floor last week to require fingerprinting and background checks on undocumented immigrants.

Several House members tried to substitute or delay voting on the bill.

Bramble, who successfully pushed through the driving privilege card in 2005, made the substitute bill to protect the program — one he believed was imperative to public safety because it allowed undocumented immigrants to legally drive and get car insurance.

Urquhart viewed the Bramble substitute of SB138 as altering what he intended, but didn't fight it hard.

Herrod and Bramble have butted heads on immigration, with Herrod attacking the Provo senator's comprehensive immigration reform bill — which was eventually substituted and carried by Sen. Stuart Reid as a guest worker bill passed by both the House and Senate.

That bill, HB116 and Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's enforcement-only bill, HB497, are awaiting Gov. Gary Herbert's signature. Herbert's office has given no indication when or if the bills will be signed — though several opponents and supporters of the immigration reform package of bills believe he will sign it.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart also said she thought Herbert would sign the bills despite pressure from conservative tea party types and state delegates who have threatened to oust Herbert if he signs the bills. "I hope he does," Lockhart said. "That's the position of the Legislature."

Herbert's office is being lobbied by all sides of the issue.

Cherilyn Eagar, who works with the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, met with Herbert Wednesday morning and urged him to veto the bills. And a group of high school students gathered outside the Capitol in the late afternoon to urge Herbert to veto them as well.

Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute said he would like to see Herbert sign HB116 and the migrant worker bill, HB466. That bill, sponsored by Bramble in the Senate, would enter Utah into a relationship with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon where the state could get trained workers to fill jobs in the state through visas issued by the federal government.

Herbert said the was considering all the arguments.

"At the end of the day, I've got to take all the facts and the input I receive and look at the bills and understand them, because I'm going to have to defend it whatever I do, and then factor that into what is in the best interest of Utah, not only today but tomorrow, and that's what I'm going to do," the governor said.

dmontero@sltrib.com