This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
While a consensus on immigration legislation is a long way off in the Utah Legislature, lawmakers made it clear Thursday that taking a timeout to await congressional action on the issue is not an option.
SJR18, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, and calling for a two-year moratorium on state action on immigration, was voted down 2-1 at its first public hearing before the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee.
Meanwhile, the House passed the third piece of major immigration reform legislation in as many working days. Rep. Chris Herrod, who at one point acknowledged surprise that his HB165 passed out of committee earlier, watched it sail through the House without debate and pass 57-15.
The measure, now on its way to the Senate, would require Utah to set up a pool of money to reimburse medical workers and hospitals for serving undocumented immigrants.
Herrod, R-Provo, said "we have doctors who are having to work for free" in serving Utah's undocumented population, which the Pew Hispanic Center pegs at about 110,000.
He also took a swipe at Rep. Bill Wright's guest-worker bill, which the House approved a day earlier.
"We made the situation worse [Wednesday] when we passed a bill that was basically amnesty," he said. "If that's going to be our policy, let's man or woman up and actually pay for that."
In other immigration-related action Thursday, the House voted 72-2 for SJR12, carried by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden. The resolution simply asks the federal government to take action and fix the broken immigration system.
But Romero's resolution asking for a timeout on state immigration action for two years fizzled.
"This really can't be resolved without federal involvement," Romero said.
And Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for Utah, testified that as states pass their own immigration laws, that merely tends to herd undocumented workers from state to state as each tries to pass tougher laws than others.
"While Arizona may be leading, it's not leading in a direction you want to follow," Todd Landfried, testifying for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, said of that state's get-tough legislation.
But Ron Mortensen, testifying for Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, said a timeout in Utah while other states pass tougher immigration laws would make the Beehive State a magnet for undocumented workers, and "it guarantees that illegal aliens will continue to be employed in good-paying jobs that Americans will do while American workers are laid off."
Committee Chairman Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, said Congress "is waiting until hell freezes over before it addresses this issue." He voted against the resolution.