Two immigration resolutions one of which seeks to repeal a guest-worker bill signed by the governor in March will be debated at the state Republican convention after the party's oversight committee unanimously voted Wednesday to move both forward.
The resolution, authored by Utah County delegate Keri Witte, challenges the guest worker bill's constitutionality and charges it violates the party's platform at both the state and federal levels. The resolution "results in a breach of federal immigration law" and opposes "government policies that encourage or reward illegal activity."
"The delegates want to hear this," Witte said. "It is a Republican issue, and I think it's an issue the Republican Party should lead out on."
Witte has had her resolution passed at two county conventions already in Salt Lake and Utah counties but it has also been defeated or failed to make the agenda at several other county organizing conventions prior to Wednesday's Utah Republican Party Resolutions Committee meeting.
Her resolution is part of a high-profile attempt to repeal HB116, the guest-worker bill carried by Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, that would allow undocumented immigrants residing in Utah to pay fines of either $1,000 or $2,500, go through background checks and allow them to live and work in the state.
It isn't scheduled to take effect until July 2013, and supporters of the bill are trying to get the federal government to grant a waiver to allow the state to operate the guest-worker program.
But while the debate over HB116 has been heated, the Resolutions Committee was powerless to change wording or recommend killing an item based on its merits leaving the 13 members who were split on the issue to try to keep their opinions in check.
They weren't entirely successful.
Stan Lockhart, former chairman of the state and Utah County Republican parties and husband of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, objected to the endnotes in Witte's resolution and regarded them as filled with "nonfactual content."
Lockhart had been a part of an email effort to defeat Witte's resolution in Utah County, where it passed.
But Bruce Hough, Republican National Committeeman, praised Witte's endnotes and appeared to lean toward not moving the other immigration resolution forward because he believed it was redundant to the current party platform.
"I don't think we should be doing resolutions on platforms," Huff said.
Michael Clara, state Chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, was a co-sponsor of the other immigration resolution, which asked Congress to come up with solutions to the issue and sought to "reiterate the message of inclusion and that there is a place for all, including immigrants, within our party."
Clara supported moving both resolutions forward and said it was imperative that his go before the state convention to show Hispanics that the Republican Party cares about them.
"It's political cover for someone like me who is trying to entice Hispanics to join the party in Utah," he said.
The state convention is June 18 and Ivan Dubois, state party director, said the order of the resolutions will be presented before the delegates are determined randomly. The party will consider six resolutions including the two related to immigration.
The committee also voted unanimously to move forward resolutions tackling a balanced budget amendment, restoring federalism, a pledge to America and a rejection of government secrecy involving monetary policy.