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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.