Utah’s Practical Approach to Illegal Immigrants

Posted February 17, 2011 in Immigration by Arthur Buono

A coalition of Utah state legislators is backing a law to give the state’s illegal immigrants work permits. It’s called a middle ground in the immigration debate by some. Opponents call it an unconstitutional amnesty.

  • Illegal immigrants could stay and work under certain conditions
  • Attacked from the right as an unconstitutional amnesty
  • Conditions questionable; would be denounced but for illegal status
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Pilot Accountability Permit Program’s Legal Deficits

Let’s have a look at the practicality. Some in Utah have been looking for a third way on immigration. The bill’s sponsors admit there are about 110,000 illegal immigrants residing in Utah. Except for their status, most of them are living law-abiding, productive lives. This is a reality, and the question is, would the state prefer them to stay or go. The answer may be "stay."

Now for the legal technicalities. To get a Utah work permit, illegal immigrants would have to submit to a criminal background check, pay taxes and take English classes. They could not remain in the state if they lost their jobs. And, federal law requires employers to verify the legal status of new hires. Utah would need a waiver of this requirement.

It seems well-intended, but legally questionable in many ways. Immigration opponents point out that Utah – or any state, take that Arizona – can’t make its own immigration laws. From the other side of the political spectrum, it seems doubtful Utah can condition a "work permit" on learning to speak English, or never having committed any crime.

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