Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Case for S.B. 60: Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program

One of the issues that I promised my constituents I would address when elected was the immigration issue.  It was made very clear going door to door that the voters wanted something done to achieve some meaningful change.  Up till now, however, the debate has largely centered on an enforcement only initiative proposed by a legislator from Utah county.

Several weeks ago, I was made aware of a piece of legislation being run in the Senate that I believe is more effective and accomplishes what my constituents and Utahns really want from immigration reform.  As I was visiting with voters during the campaign, I consistently ran into folks who were conflicted over how to deal with illegal immigration.  On one hand, they wanted our government to do something about the faceless hoards of people streaming across our borders unchecked and causing problems in the community.  Yet, on the other hand they hoped that their immigrant friends and neighbors would be unaffected by any enforcement because they were good people.  This seemed like an impossible challenge to overcome.  That is until now...

I would like to announce my sponsorship of Senate Bill 60 on the House Floor.  SB 60 answers the question of how to maintain public safety while holding harmless those of good will.  It is rigorous but fair legislation.    

Here is a summary of the program (click image to enlarge):

In essence this bill creates a controlled environment in which undocumented immigrants will pay a fee to be screened.  The bar will be raised on expectations as they will be required to learn English and basic civics.  They will not have access to welfare and unemployment benefits.  They will be given the option of participating in the program or being compelled to leave the state as they are shut out of the workforce.  To give traction to the whole system, businesses who violate the program will be fined starting at $10,000.  
I wrestled with this issue for some time before deciding to support this legislation and I understand that not all of my constituents will be happy with this proposal.  However, I do believe that it will accomplish more to enforce the law and promote prosperity than the alternatives that are currently being presented.  I ask for your thoughtful consideration of this proposal as we move forward in the debate on immigration.  May we have a civil and insightful discourse.


  1. How much does the permit cost? What is the incentive for illegal immigrants to apply for the permit? I like the idea of this, but I'm not convinced I will work.

  2. Cameron,

    The fee will be around $300-$700. We are reverse engineering what the fee structure will be based on the cost for setting up the program. The immigrants will apply because they will not be able to be hired to work if they don't. The businesses that hire outside of the program will be fined $10,000 per incident so they have a significant incentive not hire those that lack permits. The state issued permits will be easier to obtain than a fake SS number or other false identity. Plus, they avoid the legal perils associated with falsifying an ID. This arrangement should be incentive enough to promote participation. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. Thank you for your response. My concern though is that illegal immigrants and businesses that hire them already face fines, legal perils, etc for working outside the law. How does this bill create a greater incentive to use the work permits than already exist?

    Also, how is the permit process policed on the employer side?

  4. The problem with current enforcement of business practices is that there isn't any real teeth in the law. Utah law does not provide any real penalties for those who hire illegal aliens. The law says that employers with over 15 employees must use E-Verify. What penalty does the law provide of employers don't use it? Nothing. Hence, virtually no businesses use E-Verify even though the law says they should.

    The work permits are a legitimate way to work versus the nefarious way of obtaining a fake ID and lurking in shadows. This program should eliminate the need for fake ID's for those that are of good intent. Law enforcement will then have an easier time focusing on those who are not following the new rules.

    To police the permits, the employer simply notifies the state which card holder he is employing.

  5. If someone is here illegally, how can we as a state guarantee that they won't be deported? Just like the feds are clamping down on Arizona for encroaching on federal responsibilities, it seems this is an encroachment--the state granting work asylum on a federal issue. We as a state can't really guarantee them anything except that we won't turn them in to ICE.

    The other thing is that our borders are still not secure. I'm not against trying to help those of good will in the state. I am against creating a program that will encourage more immigrants to enter illegally. This bill, the Dream Act and others like it fail to address that problem. With the front door closed by bureaucracy and the back door flung wide open, we're going to increase the flow of immigrants into our state. I think we have to push the feds to act on this first before making any sort of move in this direction. I would love to have more immigrants, I just want them to come through the front door. This bureaucratic nightmare can only be undone by those who caused it, the federal legislature.

  6. Paul,

    A federal solution is preferred. However, we have been waiting 50 years for one. If past results are a prediction of future performance, we shouldn't hold our breath. Also, by having states move in this direction, it puts further pressure on the Feds to act. Arizona got the discussion going, we need more states to hop on board and do something so the Feds feel that they need to create a cohesive policy. If the states don't take steps of their own, there will be little impetus for the Feds to act.

  7. Paul,

    I think this bill would help make illegal immigrants to Utah as close to coming in the front door as we can get without federal action.

  8. I tend to agree with Paul's comment. Some provisions of SB 60 would be worthwhile if done at the federal level. For a single state like Utah, unfortunately, it's really a waste of time and you and your colleagues (legislature)should simply throw the thing away.

    Immigration policy needs to be made by the federal government, which has long given this area of law over to chaos and illogic. Mexico is in a parlous state, the border is not secure, and the things being done to, or proposed for, illegal immigrants, do not improve the situation. They come because there are opportunities here but apparently not at home. While I confess a measure of ignorance regarding immigration problems, I doubt if, for the most part, the recently arrived folks are creating most of them. The problems are in Mexico, in the federal government's policies or lack thereof, and in the relationship between these two.

    A fair system that allows Latinos from this hemisphere, who have legitimate purposes, say getting hired, to do so in reasonable numbers without a lot of red tape needs to be set up. Enforcement organs should focus on drugs and criminal activities that cross the border.

    I recommend that you consider pressure on Washington, perhaps in conjunction with Rep. Bishop and Sens. Hatch and Lee.


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