In the month since Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed four immigration bills into law, the state’s immigration policy has earned a few fans—and many foes.
When the Utah legislation first debuted, we dubbed it the “anti-Arizona” law, not because it was the perfect, progressive response to harsh enforcement-only tactics—it wasn’t—but because it at least provided a sane alternative to the extremist vision of mass-deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The Utah law, like its Arizona counterpart, has questionable components that call for local law enforcement to double as immigration officials, emphasize strict enforcement, and pave the way for racial profiling. But commendably, it also has a work permit provision that would give the 110,000 immigrants already in the state a way to step out of the shadows and apply for legal permission to work.
The Church of Latter-day Saints, a key source of influence in Utahn politics, has quietly supported the law since its inception, while a state Republican group is already seeking to repeal it. Sixty-five percent of state residents remain in favor of the legislation.
Earlier this week, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) threw a major fit about the Utah law, writing a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to make a tortured case for why the federal government should challenge, ala Arizona and SB 1070, the work permit component of the legislation (the part he dislikes), while keeping the police enforcement component (the part he does like). As he said in a statement to the Associated Press:
This is hypocritical. If (the Justice Department) chooses not to take legal action against Utah’s unconstitutional law, it will be clear the Administration bases their decisions on their own political views rather than constitutional principle.
It could be political view, or it could be the fact that the Utah law doesn’t even take effect for two years, a deliberate strategy by state officials to avoid a lawsuit while they seek a federal waiver. Arizona’s SB 1070 sought to take effect almost immediately; it remains largely unenforced after multiple court rulings deemed it unconstitutional.