One doesn’t have to agree with Arizona’s recent controversial immigration bill to recognize that with the tightening of border security in Texas and California, Arizona has become a much more common avenue of illegal entry into the country. If nothing else, the bill has succeeded in pushing immigration reform debate more to the front of the national conscience.
With such a hot issue, any politician is guaranteed access to news coverage and TV face time by suggesting similar legislation in their own state. Enter Rep. Stephen Sandstrom of Orem.
Shortly after news of the Arizona law hit the nation, Rep. Sandstrom announced that he is crafting a similar bill for the 2011 session. In other circumstances, he could almost be praised for doing so.
But Utah is not Arizona; we do not see the same influx of illegal immigrants. We do have a border used as a transit point for smugglers of people, drugs or other goods, whereas Arizona apprehends more illegal immigrants than the population of Provo and Orem combined. Utah does have its own troubles with this complex issue, but not nearly as bad as our neighboring state.
A law from 2008 that requires state officials and officers to check immigration status in certain situations and report issues to federal authorities already covers Utah. Would a law similar to Arizona’s really be able to better our own state? Arizona is looking at a likely lawsuit from the federal government that they could very well lose. So why is Rep. Sandstrom suggesting this action is needed here?
Like it or not, we live in a very politically conservative state where groups like the Tea Party movement flourish. Many of our elected officials pride themselves on how far to the right they are, and as Senator Bob Bennett showed us this year, in many districts showing any sign of liberalism could lose them their seat. Sandstrom spent a good portion of the previous legislative session working towards figuratively giving the bird to the federal government.
Sandstrom is less concerned about the immigration issue than he is about politically grandstanding to further his state’s rights agenda. Immigration is already a very sensitive topic, and one that needs to be treated delicately. Pushing an extreme measure just to highlight a pet project is irresponsible. It will end up hurting the state dearly in both financial and social terms. Our state will foot the bill to both enforce and defend a measure that callously ruins lives so one man can capitalize on the attention.
You have to ask, is Stephen Sandstrom someone Orem really wants to have representing it?