This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
The LDS Church sent an unmistakable message Tuesday that it supports the comprehensive "Utah solution" to immigration reform that the Legislature just enacted in a group of bills. The church and other supporters of the Utah Compact are right that immigration reform must be humane and include a guest worker program. However, Utah cannot implement such a plan on its own, because under the U.S. Constitution, immigration law and policy are a prerogative and power of the federal government, not the state of Utah.
That distinction aside and it is a major distinction we commend the LDS Church for explicitly and publicly adding its moral suasion to the argument for comprehensive reform that includes provisions to allow aliens who are in the United States illegally to come forward, identify themselves, pay a fine, and join the legal workforce, as the Utah bill provides.
Groups that oppose this approach already are denouncing Utah's new guest worker plan as "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. However, the best answer to the current immigration mess is to allow illegal aliens to come out of the shadows, pay a penalty and join the countless others who have sought the American dream in this nation of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants.
The guest worker program outlined in the omnibus immigration bill that Gov. Gary Herbert signed Tuesday is a good template for federal reform. The mechanics of the program are sensible. But we oppose it because federal legal supremacy rightly pre-empts Utah from enacting its own immigration system. For that reason alone, Gov. Herbert should have vetoed it. The dodge in the bill that it will not take effect until 2013, pending waivers from the federal government allowing implementation, is an empty vessel, because federal statute makes no provision for such waivers.
In fact, of the four bills Herbert signed Tuesday, the only one worthy of his signature is a pilot program with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon that would facilitate temporary workers with nonimmigrant U.S. visas coming to Utah.
Other bills would enlist local police to verify immigration status of people who are stopped and cannot provide proper ID. This could cause the arrest of more illegal immigrants, but it is unlikely to result in more deportations. It will, however, discourage illegal aliens from cooperating with police. Another measure would punish businesses if they do not use a federal database to verify employment eligibility.
The state's leaders hope that the "Utah solution" will goad Congress to take action. Here's hoping they are right, because that's the only immigration forum that matters.