A few days ago, I blogged about two new immigration laws in Utah that had passed in the state legislature. Today those bills became laws in Utah with Governor Herbert signing a bill similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 and a guest worker program. The enforcement measure (House Bill 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.
And the guest worker bill (House Bill 116), while having a two year start date (meaning it doesn’t take effect now), won’t allow undocumented workers to regularize their status until federal immigration happens. I think that guest worker programs are a step in the right direction because they could provide a basic level of occupational safety and legitimacy to undocumented employees, but absent a pathway to citizenship for those who continue to be “guests”, workers could continue to linger without opportunities to collectively bargain and advocate for themselves. Utah’s HB 116 is an interesting concept, but it won’t go anywhere without a federal plan or policy to compliment it.
Both of these laws are going to be difficult to enforce and will likely be challenged as federal law trumps state law (and immigration is considered a federal matter).
This short analysis about these two bills from Firedoglake is a great summation:
“It’s worth noting that the bill sponsor in Utah believes that his law is different from the Arizona law, in that it does not require law enforcement to ask about immigration status when picking up people on anything less than a serious misdemeanor. Meanwhile, the guest worker program, which would need a federal waiver that currently does not exist, is certainly novel; the bill sponsor of the law enforcement measure opposed it vociferously. A third law creates a pact with Nuevo León State in Mexico to funnel Mexicans into the guest worker program. Because a state can’t really create a guest worker program, the latter two bills have been dismissed by immigrant’s rights advocates (and frankly, any bill that invites workers to be employed under dubious grants of rights should be seen as immediately suspect). Therefore, you end up with a law that is in many respects a mirror of the Arizona law, with some of the most controversial pieces softened.”
While I don’t like the idea of potentially hundreds of different state level immigration laws because of the confusion it creates, one positive point about these laws is that they keep the immigration issue on the policy agenda.