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Provo • Utah County Democrats are urging the Republican-dominated Legislature not to repeal the state's new guest-worker law.

Standing in front of the Historic Utah County Courthouse, Democratic leaders argued Thursday that HB116 opponents represent a minority of Utahns who do not recognize the complexities of immigration reform.

"We invite Utah County legislators to reconsider radical positions on the topic," said Jose Alcan, chairman of the Utah County Hispanic Democratic Committee, "and ask Utah County residents to continue to show charity to their neighbors, while simultaneously demanding that Congress aggressively pursue much-needed comprehensive immigration reform."

Alcan — joined by county Democratic leaders Will Matheson and Robert McMurray — said the party plans to launch a public-education campaign to confront fiery immigration rhetoric, encourage legal immigrants to obtain U.S. citizenship and promote candidates to take on legislators seen as anti-Latino.

Much of the immigration rhetoric and legislation, on both sides, has come out of Utah County.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, sponsored an enforcement-only bill, HB497. Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was a chief architect of HB116, a measure fought by Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo.

Utah County Republican Chairman David Acheson said he welcomed the Democrats' efforts to put the issue before voters and urged grassroots involvement.

"The two-party system is great," Acheson said.

Delegates at the Utah GOP convention recently approved a nonbinding resolution calling for HB116's repeal. Delegates in Salt Lake County, Washington County and Republican-dominated Utah County passed similar resolutions.

Sandstrom said, "HB116 is amnesty. It says if you are here illegally before May 10 in the United States, after you pay a fine, we will forgive you for the crimes you committed, even if you stole a Utah child's identification."

Sandstrom said the bill does not target Latinos, and suggested those who make that claim promote the stereotype that Latinos are illegal immigrants.

Matheson dismisses such talk as a minority view, pressed mainly by GOP zealots. The Democratic leader said he does not view HB116 as a perfect solution, but as a starting place for reasonable people on both sides to address the issue.

Nor, Matheson said, are Democrats calling for amnesty. Instead, he added, they want politicians to tone down the rhetoric and work to craft genuine reform. —

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