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With New Immigration Legislation, “Utah is the anti-Arizona”

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UtahThe debate on immigration at the state level took marked turn over the weekend. Utah passed immigration legislation that is decidely unlike what we saw last year from Arizona. From Julia Preston at The New York Times:

With the immigration package, passed in both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature late Friday, Utah made a sharp break with the hard-line trend in state immigration legislation that has been led by Arizona, which passed a strict enforcement law last April.

Utah’s package includes measures to tighten enforcement against illegal immigrants that echo Arizona’s tough stance — like a requirement that the police check the immigration status of anyone arrested on a felony or a serious misdemeanor charge.

But supporters said the hybrid package offered an alternative to states, including those controlled by Republicans, that are seeking to avoid the costly political polarization and legal challenges that followed Arizona’s law and that also want to recognize the need of some businesses for immigrant labor in spite of high unemployment nationally.

The guest worker bill came after intense lobbying by business and farm groups as well as by some immigrant advocates, and it enjoyed the quiet but all-important endorsement of the Mormon Church. It is likely to raise many of the same constitutional questions as the Arizona law, including whether it intrudes on areas of immigration law reserved exclusively for the federal government. Central provisions of Arizona’s law, known as S. B. 1070, were suspended by federal courts pending a lawsuit by the Obama administration.