State and national legislators have been debating immigration reform since the birth of our country. Recently, the issue has evolved to target the immigrants crossing our southern border. It has also opened up debate on states’ rights in creating legislation.
For Utahans, the issue has now approached our doorstep with Stephen Sandstrom’s immigration bill. Sandstrom, a state legislator from Orem, unveiled the bill August 13. It has since gained local and national attention.
The bill is being compared with the controversial Arizona immigration bill, which has been criticized as borderline racial profiling. According to Sandstrom, his bill will cut costs. What costs and how they would be cut is, however, unclear.
The draft bill intends to claim state funding for a “multi-agency strike force” to carry out what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency already encompasses. Additionally, the bill calls for a “fraudulent documents identification unit” to be established under the multi-agency strike force to seek out and prosecute those who make fraudulent documents for identification purposes.
So how will this bill cut costs? The proposed strike force will be partially funded by Section 10 of the bill. This section allows a legal resident to bring action in a district court to challenge any state or local government entity that acts in violation of the enforcement of proposed laws. The penalty is paid to the court by the violator and is then forwarded to the multi-agency strike force.
In essence, a Utah resident paying both state and federal taxes is now capable of bringing lawsuit against any state or local agency to help pay for a strike force that will perform tasks which are already carried out by the federal agency, all of which the tax payer helps fund. That is like paying to sue state cops to pay for multi-agency cops who would do what federal cops already do.
From an economic standpoint alone, Sandstrom’s bill seems to mislead about its cost-cutting agenda. Setting up an additional enforcement agency; requiring state and local officials to step up on immigration enforcement along with their regular duties (failure for which can bring suit against them); requiring state and local officials to transport and detain immigrant law offenders – all of this sounds like more costs and efforts at the state level to provide what the federal agencies are falling short of.
Arguably, what can be concluded is that the threat of state legislative action is a way for states to enact procedures and laws to try and deter immigrants from coming to their particular state. This will only work as long as there is still a state with less restrictive immigration laws.
A delegation of Utah lawmakers reportedly travelled to Arizona this summer for advice on drafting this bill. Now followers from Tennessee and Colorado are pursuing the same agenda for their states.
For an issue that affects all 50 states, it would seem wiser to pressure federal reform.
Yes, this process is slow and we haven’t seen any real changes. Yet with Arizona, Utah, Tennessee, Colorado and other states beginning to join the immigration bandwagon, the federal government may be compelled to respond with real immigration reform.
Read the bill and draw your own conclusions. An easy and accessible copy can be found at http://Media.Bonnint.net/SLC/2318/231853/23185314.pdf