Rep. Stephen Sandstrom on Friday proposed a Utah version of a newly upheld 2007 Arizona law requiring businesses to use a federal verification program to screen for undocumented immigrants applying for jobs
The Orem Republican, who had been sitting on the bill, said Thursday's 5-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision settled the question of constitutionality.
"I'm going to run the exact same bill," Sandstrom said. "There is no doubt it [will] hold up."
Sandstrom, who expects to have language for the measure within two weeks, said it would mirror Arizona's law mandating employers use E-verify and setting up severe penalties if companies knowingly hire undocumented immigrants or fail to use the federal system.
He warned that employers who violate federal law by hiring undocumented immigrants would have their business licenses suspended for up to two weeks and be put on probation for five years. If a violating companyhad another offense during that five-year span, its business license would be revoked.
The bill wouldn't impact workers already on a payroll, but would affect future hires.
"We need to take down the 'Help wanted' sign for illegal aliens looking to come to Utah," Sandstrom said. "Now that the Arizona law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, we need to act fast."
The lawmaker plans to lobby Gov. Gary Herbert to call a special session in September to pass his measure because he worries undocumented immigrants in Arizona now will head to Utah.
Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom wouldn't say whether the governor would consider a special session.
"Gov. Herbert has not been contacted by Rep. Sandstrom, nor have we had opportunity to review any new proposals from him," Isom said in a statement. "E-verify, which is already mandatory in the state of Utah, is a program the governor has supported."
The Arizona law was challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Obama administration and civil-rights groups, but Chief Justice John Roberts, in his opinion, said the law was within the state's authority.
The law was written by Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who said Thursday he was confident the high court would uphold it.
It's not the first time Sandstrom has picked up Pearce-inspired legislation and run it in the Beehive State.
The Utahn's enforcement-only bill, HB497, was born of Pearce's SB1070, which required police to enforce federal immigration law. Parts of SB1070 are currently held up in the courts, and Sandstrom's bill is awaiting a July hearing after the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center filed a lawsuit saying it's unconstitutional.
Marty Carpenter, spokesman for the Salt Lake Chamber, said individual state immigration laws create a patchwork problem and that the solution must come from the federal government.
"Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's good policy. This opens the door for state legislators to try and solve a problem by treating one symptom rather than treating the root cause of the issue," Carpenter said. "Businesses are in the business to create markets, transport and sell goods. Businesses are not in the business to police or enforce immigration policy."
Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, said he agrees with the court's distinction that it's a state issue, but added there is room for debate.
"The ruling doesn't create an urgency about what to do in Utah," Mero said. "For good or ill, E-verify already is law in Utah."
Ron Mortensen, co-founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, said Sandstrom's new bill would give supporters of the guest-worker measure a chance to "offset what they did and give them an opportunity to get back into the good graces of the voters."
Sandstrom said his bill should be supported because it would target only undocumented immigrants not yet hired.
"If they don't support it," he said, "it will just prove they are pro-illegal immigration."
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