New guest worker and other legislation from Utah

Utah has enacted in March a law that attempts to set up, on a single state basis, a guest worker program allowing illegal workers to participate. Though of doubtful constitutionality – it will take a waiver from Washington for Utah to effective write a guest worker program – it is an example of creative thinking about immigration.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Utah has about 110,000 illegal immigrants, of which 75,000 are in the workforce.
The legislation follow up on the Utah Compact, which business, religious and community leaders in Utah agreed to in late November. I am posting on that compact in another post.
The Deseret News editorialized it support of the legislation, saying that “This year, Utah’s lawmakers have managed to accomplish legislatively what has eluded Congress: increased enforcement that weeds out dangerous criminals while providing a guest worker program coupled with tough but common-sense safeguards.”
One report describes the guest worker law, HB 116, as follows:
On Tuesday March 15, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert signed immigration bills including HB 116 into law, which addressed immigration enforcement, guest-worker visas and employment verification by employers in Utah. Utah became the first state to enact laws to let illegal workers remain in the state along with their families.
Governor Herbert called it “the Utah solution.” He said, “Utah has taken a thoughtful, rational approach and found common ground.”
While most acknowledge immigration is primarily a federal issue, Governor Herbert said these bills provide him some leverage at the federal level to engage the federal government in addressing Utah’s challenges, according to the press release.
The federal government would have to grant a waiver, since the U.S. Congress can only enact immigration laws and enforce them. If the federal government fails to grant a waiver, Utah might engage in a legal challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The guest-worker program under HB 116 will take effect in two years. It would allow the Utah Department of Safety to issue state visas to more than 110,000 undocumented immigrants in the state. Immigrants would have to pay $2,500 for permits or pay $1,000 for overstaying a visa in the U.S. Their families would be included in the permits. Undocumented workers would have to go through a background investigation once they sign up for the guest-worker program. They would be expected to learn English, but would not be required.
Another new law, HB 466, allows the governor to enter into a pilot program with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to supply legal workers through existing federal guest-worker programs.
A third bill, HB 497, requires police to check the immigration status of suspects who are arrested for felony or serious misdemeanor charges, placing an immigration enforcement activity in the hands of local police officers. This law is expected to face immediate legal challenges.

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