01/21/2008 01:26:52 AM MST
When the Utah Legislature convenes today, lawmakers will be facing more than a dozen measures related to immigration, the highest number of bills ever brought forward on the issue.
With almost every state passing immigration legislation, many Utah lawmakers say they are frustrated and being forced to solve immigration problems at the state level because Congress and the federal government are failing to do so.
Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, says today more than ever, Utahns are calling him and other state lawmakers demanding that they do something to curb illegal immigration.
"We need to respond to the demands of the people who elected us," he says.
Several of the proposed bills were still being drafted and had not been made public as of Friday. But community members are eager to see one of them: a comprehensive anti-illegal immigration bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George. It will mirror Oklahoma's new controversial "Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007," which forces public employers and their contractors to verify employees' immigration status and allows state and local law enforcement officers to perform certain functions of a U.S. immigration agent.
"It's in the process of changes and fine tuning and drafting," Hickman says.
A new proposal - sponsored by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City - would create an immigration task force made up of lawmakers to review and make recommendations.
"Why pass a bunch of stuff you don't need to?" Jenkins asks. "I'd like to slow this down and study it, so we don't do anything inappropriate."
There are at least seven recurring bills, from a measure to repeal the Utah law that allows eligible undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition to allowing law enforcement agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
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