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Utah Lawmakers Visit Arizona to See Effect of Immigration Law

Arizona’s tourism industry has been hurting in the wake of SB 1070 boycotts, but one group has continued visiting the state: Conservative lawmakers who hope to enact copycat immigration laws in their own states. Utah legislators were the latest to visit Arizona, making a two-day trip to meet with officials, business owners, school system representatives and border patrol agents, Time reported today:

According to Senate President Michael Waddoups, who was among the group, Utah legislators took note of the popular support for Arizona’s controversial legislation. “They’re trying to represent what the people want them to,” said Waddoups, “That’s American politics at its best — representing the constituents.”

State legislators from Tennessee and Colorado have also made the trek to Arizona to look into SB 1070-style legislation in their states.

Utah legislators visited as part of a push by state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, who released an anti-illegal immigration bill in August. Sandstrom’s bill would require local police officers to verify the immigration status of those they arrest if they could reasonably suspect them to be illegal immigrants.

It has received significant pushback from state Democrats, who argue the bill would be too costly because of increased enforcement costs and the possibility of boycotts and lawsuits. They also argue there is little state support for the bill. Michael Clara, the state chair of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, told Time the bill was likely pushed by FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that advocates tougher immigration enforcement:

“Unless I’m blind, I’m just not seeing a lot of support for this. I think it’s just the fringes and the extreme right that supports what he is doing.” Clara says, “There is more support nationally on what he is doing then what he is going to get locally. Sandstrom’s bill is going nowhere. It’s dead as far as I can see.”

As Utah considers how to deal with illegal immigration, the state could be an interesting case because it has a few so-called “sanctuary policies” on its books. (Of course, the term itself is a misnomer, because even “sanctuary communities” allow for federal immigration enforcement.) In Utah, undocumented immigrants can obtain driver’s privilege cards under a law aimed at keeping roads safe. The idea, much like other “sanctuary policies” around the country, is to allow illegal immigrants into the system in order to improve overall public health and safety. Sandstrom’s bill would remove not remove this right, but it would allow police and federal officials to access privilege-card records, which could deter some illegal immigrants from participating in the system.

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