Utah Immigration Laws Demand Swift Response from Federal Government

Mar 15, 2011, 19:05 ET from FAIR

State Defies Federal Authority Over Immigration Policy, Says FAIR

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The federal government must take decisive action to block implementation of Utah laws that flagrantly ignore federal immigration laws, demanded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Key provisions of the bills signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Gary Herbert are unconstitutional and defy federal authority over the establishment of immigration policy, argued the organization.

Unlike Arizona's SB 1070, which sought to have the state enforce existing U.S. immigration laws, the legislation signed by Gov. Herbert essentially creates a separate immigration policy for Utah. Among the unconstitutional provisions of the bills signed into law by Gov. Herbert:

  • Utah would grant two-year work permits to illegal aliens residing in Utah in spite of the fact that they are expressly prohibited by Congress from working in the United States.
  • The same Utah law would allow the state to circumvent the employer sanctions provision of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act by requiring the governor to seek a waiver from the federal government. Yet the executive branch lacks the constitutional authority to change immigration laws written by Congress. The Utah law would go into effect in 2013, even without federal approval.
  • Utahans would be allowed to sponsor foreign nationals to live in Utah. State governments do not have the power to admit people to the United States, or grant residents sponsorship authority. That power resides exclusively with the federal government.

"If the Obama administration thought Arizona was stepping on their toes when it attempted to enforce federal laws, Utah is stomping on their feet and poking them in the eye for good measure," said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "While the administration clearly approves of the political objective of allowing illegal aliens to remain and work in the country legally, states do not have the constitutional authority to write their own immigration policies. As a matter of principle and in defense of the Constitution, the Obama administration has no choice but to file suit against Utah."

In addition to laws that are clearly unconstitutional, Gov. Herbert also signed legislation that would seem to defy logic and common sense. Among the bills he signed is one that enters Utah – a state with a 7.6 percent unemployment rate – into a partnership with the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to recruit guest workers. This law would require that the U.S. government issue visas before the workers are admitted.

"Gov. Herbert and the Utah legislature, like most Americans, are frustrated by the federal government's seeming inability to enact sensible immigration reforms, and its unwillingness to enforce existing ones," Stein said. "Federal statutes give states certain powers to enforce immigration laws, not to create their own immigration laws as Utah has done.

"No state has the authority to grant de facto amnesty to illegal aliens by issuing them work permits, or the authority to admit foreign nationals outside of the quotas and parameters established under federal law.  And no political objective on the part of the administration in power would justify the implementation of laws that clearly usurp federal authority. President Obama took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and what the Utah legislature and Gov. Herbert have done represents a clear test of his willingness to honor that pledge," concluded Stein.

About FAIR

Founded in 1979, FAIR is the country's largest immigration reform group.  With over 250,000 members nationwide, FAIR fights for immigration policies that serve national interests, not special interests.  FAIR believes that immigration reform must enhance national security, improve the economy, protect jobs, preserve our environment, and establish a rule of law that is recognized and enforced.