Utah Sets Itself Apart from Anti-immigrant Current

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WASHINGTON – The state of Utah, where approximately 110,000 undocumented immigrants live, wants to show the world that it “is not Arizona,” by approving measures that benefit underground foreign workers, according to an EFE report in La Opinión. Congress’s unwillingness to enact comprehensive immigration reform has left a vacuum, leading some states to take on the issue themselves, enacting laws that may be considered unconstitutional. Now Utah is taking on the issue of immigration.

On Friday, Utah’s legislature passed one measure requiring police to verify the immigration status of anyone who is detained for a serious offense, and another measure proposing a two-year work visa for “guest workers” from Nuevo León, Mexico, and sanctions for businesses that hire undocumented immigrants outside of that program.

To enter the guest worker program, undocumented workers and their families must first pay a fine of up to $2,500 and have no criminal record. For those who entered legally, but have let their visas expire, the fine would be $1,000.

State legislators say these measures set Utah apart from Arizona, which has been criticized as being racist for enacting the law SB 1070 last year, which made it a state crime to be undocumented in Arizona.

In 2010, Utah became the first state in the nation to grant a special type of driver’s license to undocumented immigrants, although they can’t be used as a means of identification to enter federal premises.

While a dozen states are considering enacting laws like Arizona's SB 1070 in 2011, similar measures have been defeated in at least six state legislatures so far in 2011, due in part to economic, social and political pressures. This may allow more moderate measures to prevail in states like Colorado, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming.