I had some time to sit down and review HB300 “Illegal Immigration Related Amendments” which acts to replace the unconstitutional and flawed HB116. The bill will establish the “Illegal Alien Family Transition Pilot Program” in coordination with the Federal Government. That makes the bill conform to constitutional requirements which HB116 does not (even the Salt Lake Tribune called for its repeal on constitutional grounds). Additionally, HB300 (unlike HB116) is open early in the session for review and should receive a full debate (it even allows for legislators to read it before passing it). Below, I will try to sum up some of the key provisions in the bill along with suggestions for improvement. Numbers in parenthesis correspond with line number of HB300 (pdf). As always, I urge you to read the bill yourself and formulate your own opinions – especially when the bill is available to read rather than rushed through during an unscheduled late session…
- Requires coordination with the Federal Government to enact legislation and rules to provide pilot program authorization (ie the bill respects the Constitution) (381).
- Establishes a “Transition A” permit for illegal immigrants families who overstayed a valid visa, have only worked with legal authorization, and broken no laws. This will exempt them from the US statutory bar to entry and they can remain and renew the permits on an annual basis as they work to gain new valid visas (460). They must also complete 160 hours of community service with legal immigrants (824).
- Establishes a “Transistion B” permit for illegal immigrant families who overstayed a valid visa and have illegally worked and/or engaged in identity theft to do so or violated a law (they must cease such activities). They are given one year to arrainge their affairs and leave the country to reenter from their country of origin along with a positive factor to waive the US statutory bar to reentry (472). They must also pay a fine (724) which goes into an identity theft victim’s fund (742) and provide information so that victims can be informed (598). They must repay tax-funded benefits and back taxes (732).
- Has far more effective background verification provisions (552 and 591).
- Both permits require a legal marriage (can’t shack up and qualify) (241).
- No taxpayer exposure – both permits require a sponsor (I would seriously contemplate donating to A Permit) to provide financial/health support while permittees address their status (636) – organizations and individuals can ‘put their money where their mouth is’. The Department of Public Safety is authorized to set a fee to fully cover program operation (631).
- Revokes business licenses for illegal employers (needs fix, see below) and finally puts a penalty for violating Utah’s E-Verify law (2010’s SB251) (744).
- Fine goes to identity theft fund (HB116 funded it entirely with taxpayer money) (742).
- Notification of identity theft victims (requires SSN disclosure) (860) from information disclosed by Transition B permitees – an excellent provision (HB116 had no notification requirement whatsoever, victims were left to twist in the wind).
- Permittees are prohibited from driving until they gain a new visa (needs fix) (551).
- Provisions for prohibited conduct including a fine ($5000) (867) that doesn’t financially incentivise violation (as HB116’s fine did).
- Authorizes law enforcement agencies to participate in the 287(g) program (929) and sets a penalty for refusing to enforce established law (949). The penalty begins upon a second violation and results in 10% reduction in State funding and the chief(s) loss of POST certification.
- Requires employers to enroll in the IMAGE program (allows them to verify current employee’s legal work status – will also get rid of deadbeats and fugitive illegal workers) (1038) and provides redress for identity theft victims due to violation of IMAGE requirements (1049).
- Directs the Governor to press the Federal Government on various immigration issues (1056) including streamlined temporary worker permits and agricultural worker permits.
- Clarifies that the victims fund is limited to employment related identity theft (1135) (HB116 failed to do so).
- Significantly improves when a victim can claim compensation from the above fund and actually gives a reasonable window of opportunity to do so (1141) – HB116 made it virtually impossible for victims to claim anything from an effectively unfunded account.
- Fix business license revocation with the date Utah E-Verify law (2010’s SB251) went into effect (easy, couple word, maybe a sentence, fix).
- Allow permittees to drive as this ability will make it much easier for them to legalize their status. Ideally, the driving permit card would be limited to these permittees and no one else.
- The bill (with Federal authorization) should provide immunity from prosecution if they provide the stolen identity details they used if it was only for employment (not credit).
- Specifically allow sponsors to transfer sponsorship (it is implied but a specific provision would be helpful).
- The bill prohibits use of affirmative action programs or other race-based benefit programs (502) as well as the exclusion from back-filed tax credits (870). This isn’t a fix so much as a flag that such would have to be included in a federal waiver to administer the program.
First, those who have pressed for a permit program have wanted to address civil violations of entry requirements. The above program is limited to civil violations only (overstaying a visa). Criminal entry is a disqualifier.
Second, by initiating a specific, limited pilot program as HB300 does, startup and the program should be manageable for those administering it. It sets it up as a good test case for success and further expansion rather than haphazardly trying to swallow the whole elephant. This problem took years to develop and will take years to remediate. Trying to swallow it with a rushed program open to all can have dire consequences if it fails or makes the situation worse. Once the die is cast there’s no going back. Better to start modest and have the flexibility to ‘adjust fire’ as needed while limiting the potential for damage.
I anticipate that Senator Bramble and the Salt Lake Chamber plan to kill this bill and just “tweak” HB116 which will remain unconstitutional and an illegal labor employer’s panacea (while disregarding legal/honest employers, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and identity theft victims). Public pressure will be key.
Please firmly but politely contact your Representative and Senator and ask them to support HB300 and ensure it receives a floor vote in both chambers. It would also be advisable to contact Governor Herbert as well.