Photo: Work Visa, Guest Worker
Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert issued a statement last week defending Utah’s new immigration law in a rebuttal to U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith’s comment that the federal government should sue Utah to stop its immigrant guest-worker program.
In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Smith, R-Texas, said Utah’s new immigration law, adopted in the 2011 legislative session as H.B. 116, is “usurping Congress” and “the employment of illegal immigrants is a direct threat to American workers.” Herbert signed the law on March 15 but it is not scheduled to take effect for two years.
“A lawsuit is completely premature,” Herbert, a Republican, said in a news release. “The people of the U.S. would be better served if the federal government used the time between now and 2013 to actually address immigration, rather than sue Utah for trying to manage the practical realities we face as states due to the absence of federal action.”
H.B. 116, or the “Utah solution” on immigration, as it has been nicknamed, would allow an “undocumented individual” to obtain a guest worker permit to work in the state.The new law also states that those with guest worker permits can apply for permits for their spouses and children under the age of 21.
“The Utah solution is not a solution to immigration, it is just addressing some of the real world situations that the state finds itself in,” said Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff for Herbert. “This congressman [Lamar Smith] that doesn’t represent our state was critical of our solution, and there would be no need for a Utah solution if the U.S. government would issue a response.”
This law hits home for BYU students on campus as well. Cassandra Ball, a sophomore studying anthropology, saw a need to help those in the country.
“I have seen a lot of illegal immigrants being exploited and taken advantage of because of their illegal immigrant status, so I feel that if there is something that can be done to lessen that effect, that is important,” Ball said.
The federal government has been under close watch with the introduction of President Obama’s immigration reform, but what many are calling as a failure to act on the federal government’s part has left many states, like Arizona and Utah, to take immigration into their own hands.
Kevin R. Johnson, dean of the University of California at Davis School of Law, specializes in immigration law and he said states are going to implement their own laws until the federal government acts.
“Many states are passing these types of laws and are trying to deal with what they view as a problem of the national law, and this is Utah’s way of dealing with a national problem,” Johnson said. “Not much is going to happen, these state and local laws are going to continue to be passed so long as Congress fails to do something about the immigration problem.”
In his statement, Herbert urged Congress to act.
“Instead of throwing rocks at Utah, Congress should get off the sidelines, into the game and actually do something,” he said.