Thursday, February 17, 2011

Utah: Immigration bill seeks middle ground in debate

In state legislatures across the country, most of the immigration bills being debated aim to crack down on illegal immigration. Legislators are trying to cut off illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits, deny their U.S.-born children citizenship and force them out of states by granting local police the power to enforce immigration laws.

One bill filed in Utah is being viewed as the possible middle ground that has proven so elusive in a hyper-charged immigration discussion. The Utah bill, known as the Pilot Accountability Permit Program, would grant work permits to illegal immigrants so they could legally work in the state but would require them to undergo criminal background checks, pay taxes and take English classes, and it would force them to leave the state if they lose their jobs.

Under the legislation, the state would report illegal immigrants who commit a major crime to the federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency.

"It is very rare," Eric Rodriguez, vice president of public policy for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group, said of the bill. "It just feels more meaningful than what we've seen in other states."

The bill was co-sponsored by state Sen. Luz Robles, a Democrat, and state Rep. Jeremy Peterson, a Republican, and has the backing of a conservative think tank in Utah.

Paul Mero, director of the conservative Sutherland Institute, said he became disheartened by the dozens of bills flowing through the Utah Capitol and other state legislatures that focused on trying to catch and deport illegal immigrants. He said the immigration system needs to be fixed by Congress, but meanwhile, Utah should focus on constructive ways to deal with the 110,000 illegal immigrants living in the state.

"You really have two paths," Mero said. "The one path leads to rounding them up or starving them out. Or, you can actually go down this other path of rationality and practicality."

Even though it has bipartisan support in Utah, it is receiving bipartisan criticism from outside.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which supports a path for some illegal immigrants to become citizens, was pleased by the general direction of the bill, but worried that some of the enforcement portions of the bill may go too far.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates lower levels of immigration, said the core of the bill is unconstitutional because states cannot regulate immigration numbers. He called the bill "de facto amnesty" and considered it a political gesture since it has little chance of surviving legal challenges.

Robles acknowledged that her proposal delves into uncharted legal territory and said that the state would need a waiver from the federal government to implement it. Even so, she said she is confident the legislation would survive constitutional challenges since it doesn't alter the immigration status of illegal immigrants and her state has been providing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants for years.

Robles said legislators from six states have inquired about the bill. And no matter the outcome of her bill, she said she hopes it changes the tone of the national immigration debate. "People are realizing that the extremes are just not going to work," Robles said. "You're seeing a shift on how people are talking about this issue."


Chavez Funding American Group That Assists Illegal Migrants

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is sending $1 million a year of his oil revenue to an American organization bent on keeping America's borders wide open. Casa de Maryland openly helps migrants illegally in the United States. It also receives $4 million from the state of Maryland and Montgomery County out of a total budget of $9.5 million a year.

Chávez is knee deep in potential lawlessness. Evidence has surfaced of his intentions to ship Russian weapons to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and criminal drug cartels such as FARC, to facilitate terrorist acts against the United States, including blowing up pipelines carrying oil to the United States. He has also promised to ship both uranium to Iran to help Tehran make nuclear weapons material and oil to help break a possible refined petroleum products sanctions law now before the US Congress. How much of this is just talk and how much real? The laptop on which these Chávez plans were found was a real computer, owned by a real FARC senior commander. How much risk do we want to face?

Open borders with the world pose grave dangers to the United States. The San Diego Union described the chaos on our borders this way: “Every night, the understaffed and outnumbered Border Patrol engaged in a losing battle of cat-and-mouse with thousands of illegal immigrants being led by ruthless smugglers. ... San Ysidro residents locked themselves in at night as smugglers and immigrants traipsed through their yards. Caches of drugs were carried across the border by smugglers and the people they were leading. Hundreds of illegal immigrants lingered in the median strip of Interstate 5 waiting for rides northward. Immigrants running across freeways were hit and killed by motorists."

A USA Columnist visited the border to examine the prospects for a fence. She wrote: : “The carnage makes one wonder why environmental groups aren’t out lobbying for a sturdy border fence — instead of arguing against tougher border enforcement.”

But we not only have a problem at the border. The United States still has no reliable system for verifying that foreign visitors have left the country. Federal officials estimate that “40 percent of the…illegal immigrants in the United States came on legal visas and overstayed.”

At a recent community event in Maryland, a veteran Democrat legislator told me there was no problem in Casa de Maryland receiving funding from Chávez because "Venezuela is a model for Latin and Central American development". I thought she must have been kidding. Inflation in the country is over 30% and may reach twice that. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Chávez has so mismanaged the economy the country does not produce enough coffee for domestic consumption for the first time ever. The currency has dropped in value by over half as Chávez prints money wildly.

Casa de Maryland condemns those who advocate effective limits on immigration as racists, as does Chávez. It has threatened civil disobedience should the US Congress not approve amnesty. It publishes pamphlets that instruct people to refuse to cooperate with immigration and law enforcement officials.

The Times Square bomber, or the Detroit underwear bomber, are just a couple of numerous examples of the latest example of the connection between lax immigration laws--or lax enforcement of the laws we already have-- and potential terrorism. In the case of the Times Square clown, it was a case of granting citizenship to someone from a known state sponsored terrorist hotbed (Pakistan) and apparently looking the other way when reviewing what appears to be a sham marriage. How much worse is it to give tax-exempt status to those who actively seek to leave unprotected our borders while supporting themselves with funds from terror supporting states?


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