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KEEPING HOUSE January 24, 2011

January 24, 2011

The General Session of the Utah Legislature is beginning this week. I thank those people who have completed the mail-in surveys that Senator Kevin Van Tassell and I inserted in last week's newspaper.

If you did not get a survey and would like to complete one, please send an e-mail to me at and I will forward the questions to you. In an upcoming column, I will review the results of the surveys.

This week I am hosting two open houses to share information with you about the legislative session and hear your concerns: Friday, January 28 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Citizen's Center in Heber City; and Saturday, January 29 at 2 p.m. at the Crossroads Senior Center in Roosevelt. I hope to see you there.

In this week's column, I will discuss one of the main issues that the legislature will confront this year: illegal immigration. Nearly two dozen bills are expected to be introduced on this subject.

In the past few weeks, I have tried to create a list of the basic arguments that are being made on both sides of the debate over illegal immigration in Utah. Before I can decide how to vote on any particular bill concerning illegal immigration, I feel that I need to understand the various issues giving rise to the proposals.

Under the U.S. Constitution, only the federal government can establish rules for naturalization (i.e., immigration) of people as U.S. citizens. Once these rules are established, however, state and local governments arguably have authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

The current debate in the Utah Legislature is over whether Utah law enforcement officers should be directed to enforce federal immigration laws, and if so, how that enforcement should be carried out. Both sides of the debate seem to agree that federal authorities currently do not vigorously enforce federal immigration laws.

The following are the main reasons advanced by those who believe state and local authorities should enforce federal immigration laws:

1. Illegal immigrants use government services such as education and public assistance and therefore cost taxpayers money.

2. Illegal immigrants commit violent crimes and property crimes.

3. Illegal immigrants steal and fraudulently use citizens' social security numbers to obtain employment.

4. Illegal immigrants compete with citizens for employment, driving wages down and causing unemployment for legal residents.

5. Failing to enforce immigration laws is unfair to foreigners who apply and wait for years for U.S. citizenship through legal channels.

6. Failing to enforce immigration laws fosters a climate of disrespect for law and further lawbreaking.

7. Illegal immigration in Utah is increasing rapidly and therefore needs to be curtailed.

8. Increased enforcement will cause many illegal immigrants to leave, thereby helping to alleviate the problem.

9. Failing to enforce immigration laws encourages foreigners to bear children on U.S. soil so that those children will automatically be U.S. citizens.

Those who believe that state and local law enforcement authorities should not enforce federal immigration laws use the following main arguments:

1. Illegal immigrants pay taxes and contribute to the economy and so should be allowed to receive public assistance and education.

2. Illegal immigrants do not commit crimes at a high rate.

3. Our economy needs and relies on the labor of illegal immigrants, who should be allowed to continue working here under some type of official program.

4. It is expensive and nearly impossible to deport a large number of illegal immigrants.

5. Local enforcement of immigration laws will make immigrants unwilling to talk to police, thereby harming efforts to fight serious crimes.

6. It is unfair to enforce immigration laws against people who were brought to this country as innocent children.

7. Local enforcement of immigration laws is a cruel and uncompassionate response to human beings who just want to live and work in our society.

8. Federal laws concerning immigration are irrational and unjust and so do not deserve to be enforced.

9. Local enforcement of immigration laws would be useless because the federal government refuses to detain or deport violators when delivered into custody.

As you can see, there are some stark disagreements between people on each side of this debate. I will be closely examining each of these issues as I consider the various immigration bills.

I welcome your input on this and other subjects at or 435-657-0185.


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