Thursday, November 18, 2010

Live-Blogging Utah Immigration Law: Steve Sandstrom Comes to Payson, Utah

My appreciation goes out to Patrick Painter, my Utah State Representative from Nephi, Utah, who invited me to a presentation of Steve Sandstrom's "Utah Immigration Enforcement Act" that will be presented in Utah's next legislative session. Steve Sandstrom says the bill is alive and well, but he'll have to convince me.

Update 9:00 PM: Rep Sandstrom has been very informative, but I'm not sure that he has persuaded me. I have some studying to do. Rep Sandstrom will send me links to a variety of studies he has conducted or researched in the formulation of this bill.

As I wrote here a couple of days ago, I support the Utah Compact. Representative Sandstrom says that his proposed bill does as well.  About 40 citizens of south Utah County and Juab County are here to find out...and nearly all of them seem to be in support of Reps Sandstrom and Painter, who plan to vote for this bill. Sandstrom and Painter are confident that the "Utah Immigration Enforcement Act" will become law in 2011.

Representative Sandstrom has travelled to Arizona three times in the past six months to visit with his legislative counterparts (Russell Pearce, author of Arizona Senate Bill 1070) there in order to find out what is working in the Arizona law and what is not.

Earlier today Rep Sandstrom attended a forum on immigration at Utah Valley University during which he had to endure heckles and chants of "Down with Sandstrom!" I agree with him when he says that we can disagree with each other and still be civil about it.

On another note, Rep Sandstrom, Rep Painter, and 13 other Utah legislators voted yesterday NOT to accept $101 million in federal stimulus funds. This is an action that I applaud.

He believes that his bill, which he has been working on since April of this year is legal, will be held up to constitutional scrutiny, and will curb a problem that is getting worse and worse.

As a result of the Arizona law, some illegal immigrants self-deported, but many of them moved to other states. One of the two most commonly mentioned states into which they resettled was Utah. Because they can get a driver's privilege card, which allows them to have several other privileges, in-state college tuition, etc.

Because they are illegal, they must steal someone's social security number in order to gain employment. While Rep Sandstrom thinks this begs for tougher immigration laws, I think that it indicates that we need to have better assimilation of immigrants through more streamlined federal laws.

According to Rep Sandstrom, his bill does not require people to carry "papers". But nearly everyone carries a driver's license. According to federal law, law enforcement officers are allowed to ask for the same identification that they ask for in other infractions.

This law will help Utah law enforcement, said Sandstrom, to know of the dangers posed by immigrants who have committed crimes in other states, while currently we have no way of knowing such information. Currently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not take someone into custody, even if they know that someone is illegally here, unless that someone has committed a felony. This law, according to Sandstrom, will have the same effect of the Arizona law, in that it will have the effect of causing illegal immigrants to self-deport back to their home country.

The 5-year Utah driver's license renewal process, which now requires everyone to show a birth certificate and other identifying information, has the effect of tracking who is or is not a legal resident of the United States. Rep Sandstrom is opposed to issuing driving privilege cards to illegal immigrants.

Rep Sandstrom says that it's no different than asking you for your license when you are speeding. Various members of the audience said that they know of people who are regularly profiled or asked for their license when they have committed no infraction. Rep Sandstrom says his bill is very clear that it does not allow for such profiling.

If you have no driver's license with you when you are pulled over for an infraction, your residency status can be verified by a law enforcement officer by starting with verifying that you live where you say you live.

If you are Hispanic and are being profiled or otherwise harrassed, Rep Sandstrom says his bill will help you, because it stops profiling and requires the commission of a crime before someone can be asked for identification, and there are several immigrants who support this bill because they are tired of having people who are here illegally that ruin his reputation as a legal immigrant.

Sandstrom's law requires people to verify legal status before they can acquire welfare benefits. According to Sandstrom, Utah's welfare system is a victim of a great deal of fraud. An example given is that some social security numbers are used at welfare services so often that many welfare counselors recognize the numbers as being used fraudulently; counselors cannot refuse service to such people, but can only send them a letter explaining that they think they are using a fraudulent number. According to Sandstrom, about 50,000 Utah Social Security Numbers, most of them belonging to children, have been compromised in such a manner. Sandstrom gave an example of someone he knows who was denied a scholarship to a college because someone, using her social security number, had been convicted of two DUIs and other crimes. A young couple reported to him that when they went to purchase a home, they were turned away because someone using the man's SSN had ruined their credit rating. In another example, someone had a difficult time have wage garnishment stopped for a "wife" in California that he never had, because someone had stolen his SSN.

Legal immigrants must show that they have the wherewithal, through sponsorship or self-sustainment, that they will not have to ask for welfare assistance for five years following their receiving citizenship status. Illegal immigrants do not.

A companion bill, the text of which will be released in the next few weeks, will strengthen the existing Utah E-Verify law. This proposed law would crack down on the ability of businesses to do work in Utah who knowingly hire illegal aliens, your license will be revoked after the second offense. Such a bill has been in operation and very effective in Arizona for two years now. Interestingly, after illegal workers left the state, instead of the cost of doing business going up, it stayed the same, indicating, according to Sandstrom, that unscrupulous contractors were making obscene profits at the expense of illegal aliens.

Rep Sandstrom agrees that the infamous "List" put out by employees of Utah workforce services was wrong and a violation of the law, but it manifest the frustration that workforce services employees experience by, day after day, seeing illegal immigrants fraudulently availing themselves of Utah benefits.

Sandstrom's proposed law would provide penalties for those who knowingly entice or transport illegal immigrants.  Section 12 of his bill (which modifies the existing 76-10-2901 section of Utah State Code) provides exemptions to religions and other charities who provide humanitarian aid, including transportation to place that give humanitarian aid. The bill will not punish someone who pays an illegal immigrant to work for them unknowingly.

There exists a plethora of laws that Utah law enforcement officers are required to enforce every day.  Said Representative Sandstrom, "I don't know why they can't add immigration enforcement to that."

Sandstrom disagrees with what Charlie Morgan stated in a Sutherland Institute briefing of a few weeks ago that Utah county jail numbers of illegal aliens cannot be extrapolated across the state.It is rather, that most county jails omit asking about questions of race, but Utah County does not, which shows that other counties are skewing the numbers.

A retired US customs agent says that there are customs agreements with all Utah counties, so that they don't have to be transported to just Utah and Weber County jails, as Mr. Morgan alleged at the Sutherland briefing.

In 1970, immigration from Mexico was on par with people from Europe, Asia, etc. But in 2010, Mexican immigrants make up 80% of immigrants, making it much more likely that they will not assimilate.

When questioned, Rep Sandstrom stated that he thinks he has enough votes to get his law passed. The reason it will pass, despite what Des News, Sutherland Institute, and Attorney General Shurtleff say, is because so many Utahns are in favor of the bill.

The current version of the bill, after speaking with a broad spectrum of people, is in its ninth version, indicating that it is not a knee-jerk reaction or a rushed bill. But he expects that this version will be the final draft, which he hopes will be listed in the legislation soon, because it has already been through some committee hearings. He expects it to come up for a vote early in the 2011 session, perhaps sometime in January.

In response to the Utah Compact, Rep Sandstrom responded here.

Most of those in attendance--at least among the vocal part--agree with Steve Sandstrom's bill. The bill is not aimed at Hispanics, because there have been documented cases of hundreds of Pakistani, Iraqi, and other individuals who have attempted to cross our southern US border with the intent to do Americans harm. Sandstrom's bill applies to these individuals as well.

In discussing the Utah Compact and how it encourages that immigration reform should respect families and not break them apart, Sandstrom is not in favor of breaking up families, "but when you break the law, you are taking that risk." However, said Sandstrom, the biggest majority of illegals who come here are men between 25 and 38 years who actually leave their families to come here.

According to Sandstrom, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) did a state by state comparison of illegal aliens and estimated that Utah taxpayers, not taking education dollars into account, are, on net, paying a total of $467 million to support illegal immigrant activity, including 5,000 births of children to illegal immigrants.

Sandstrom also cited broad support of his bill from the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration.

In a response to a question about police Chief Chris Burbank of Salt Lake City, Sandstrom says his bill would levy fines on those law enforcement agencies that do not enforce this and other federal laws.

Interestingly, said Sandstrom, the state of Oklahoma has flown under the radar somewhat by passing supposedly the strictest immigration laws in the country without hardly being noticed.  Essentially every facet of Sandstrom's bill, he alleges, has been upheld in some federal court somewhere in the United States, including in the 9th Circuit (which encompasses Arizona, Utah, etc.), which has upheld California law that allows prosecution of human smuggling of illegal aliens.

A vote was taken at the end of the meeting, and essentially every hand--but mine--went up. And they didn't even heckle me.  How civil! Which is more than can be said about those who have heckled both Reps Sandstrom and Painter, having many times unfairly called them racist for supporting such legislation. This vitriol has not come, by the way, from the Utah Hispanic Republican Assembly, said Sandstrom, although they are firmly opposed to the bill.

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