This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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 group of Utah Republicans has launched an online petition drive urging the Legislature to repeal the state's new guest worker law. We agree that the law never should have been enacted and should be repealed, but we disagree on the reasons.
The petitioners are right that the new guest worker law is unconstitutional. Only Congress, not the state of Utah, can pass immigration laws. If each state attempted to create its own immigration system, chaos would result. For that reason, the new Utah law should be repealed.
Otherwise, we part company with the law's opponents. They are against the law because they say it is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have flouted U.S. immigration laws and deserve to be punished, not rewarded, for their behavior. Utah's new law, they say, will make the state a magnet for illegal immigration.
While it is true that Utah cannot enact its own program of guest worker permits for illegal aliens, it is also true that any realistic immigration reform enacted by Congress should include a guest worker program similar to the one in the new Utah law. It would require illegal aliens to come forward, identify themselves, pay a fine, undergo a criminal background check and join the legal workforce.
The United States must figure out a better system to bring temporary immigrant labor to this country legally, and it probably should be something like the Utah law. In that sense, the Utah law can be seen as a template for federal immigration reform, as the law's supporters say.
However, it is a pipe dream for Utah legislators to expect that the federal government will grant waivers to Utah to allow its new guest worker program to be implemented. As the Legislature's own attorneys have pointed out, there are no provisions within federal law to allow such waivers.
Still, the sponsors of the Utah law insist it is a lever to move Congress to action. If so, it is a short, weak lever.
The sponsors of the new online petition take a different tack. They say that the Republican legislators who voted for HB116 supported amnesty for illegal aliens. HB116 is the comprehensive immigration package popularly know as the "Utah solution" that includes the new guest worker law.
These advocates of repeal claim that the GOP lawmakers who voted for the bill violated their party's immigration platform. They are gathering signatures on their petition electronically, through their website repeal116.com to pressure lawmakers and Gov. Gary Herbert, who signed the bill, to repeal it.
That would be the right result for mostly the wrong reasons.