This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
A number of unhappy Republican state delegates had a private meeting with Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday, asking him to veto a comprehensive immigration reform bill on his desk or face an organized drive to oust him from office in the 2012 election.
David Kirkham, who is largely credited with mobilizing tea-party types in Utah for U.S. Sen. Mike Lee's eventual victory against ex-Sen. Bob Bennett, said that if Herbert signs HB116 into law, his tenure will be in serious jeopardy.
"I think the election begins the day he signs it," Kirkham said.
Utah has been at the center of the immigration debate since the House and Senate passed the guest-worker bill carried by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, and an enforcement-only bill carried by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, HB497. The layered approach to the issue has put the state in the spotlight, but it has also angered some conservatives who believe Utah's image will be too welcoming for undocumented immigrants.
The guest-worker bill was controversial because it's likely to be deemed unconstitutional, as it would allow Utah to issue visas to workers and their families despite federal supremacy on immigration matters.
Under its provisions, it would allow those here without documents roughly 110,000, according to the Pew Hispanic Center to receive guest-worker permits by paying a $2,500 fine, or a $1,000 fine if they simply overstayed a visa. It would also require them to pass background checks and would encourage them to learn English. It has been derided by opponents as amnesty.
But no state has attempted to circumvent federal sovereignty when it comes to issuing visas. The state delegates who met with Herbert told him Utah would be in for long, costly lawsuits if he signed the bill.
The show of force at the Capitol was one of two meetings Herbert had with those that don't like the guest-worker bill. Earlier, he met with tea partyers who told him in no uncertain terms that he shouldn't sign the measure.
Ally Isom, Herbert's spokeswoman, said there is no timetable for the governor to sign the legislation and that he is happy to meet with different groups.
"The governor wants to listen to everybody," Isom said.
For a while, it looked as if he were going to get an earful, as about 100 people gathered outside his door beneath the House of Representatives. Each took a slip of paper one green and one blue and filled them out to hand to their elected representatives, telling them their views on the bill.
When David Kyle, who headed up a political-action committee for vocal illegal-immigration critic Cherilyn Eagar, stood up in front of the crowd outside Herbert's office, he quieted them down.
"If you're a state delegate, raise your hand," he said.
Almost every hand shot up immediately.
Above, on the first flight of marble stairs, Rep. Christopher Herrod, R-Provo, gave the crowd a thumbs up and beamed.
Herrod has been a vocal critic of the guest-worker bill giving a long, passionate speech on the House floor Friday night that urged fellow representatives to vote it down. It passed in the House 41-32.
He described Tuesday's gathering as "awesome" and laughed when a few began chanting for him to run for governor.
The meeting with the state delegates most of whom had only 24 hours' notice but arrived after an e-mail and texting blitz started by Brandon Beckham, an Orem delegate lasted for about 30 minutes. The news media were locked out.
Beckham said he wanted media representatives in the room, but Herbert's staff balked. Beckham said he was told that having media there "would change the dynamic of the conversation." But Beckham said the meeting was civil, though he characterized Herbert as "shaken" by the turnout.
"I like the fact that the governor listens," Beckham said. "But I don't know if he has the will to do what is right. I hope he does."
He said if Herbert signs the bill, "it would be political suicide."
But Michael Clara, state chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, said Herbert shouldn't feel threatened.
"I have every confidence that the governor will sign HB116, as it is an embodiment of his six guiding principles on immigration," Clara said. "It is also the will of the people as expressed through the vote of both chambers of the Legislature."
Another veto request
Santiago Dirzo, a volunteer with United for Social Justice, met with Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday with about a dozen kids and their parents urging him to veto Rep. Stephen Sandstrom's enforcement-only immigration bill.
The meeting lasted for about 20 minutes, Dirzo said, and the children gave him letters telling Herbert why he shouldn't pass the measure.
"I think the kids touched his heart," Dirzo said.
The bill, HB497, was originally modeled after Arizona's enforcement-only legislation under its old title, HB70. But Sandstrom made subsequent changes to it move it away from the Arizona law, including eliminating some language and provisions to avoid the taint of racial profiling that bogged down Arizona's law.