Testimony in Favor of SB 60 (Immigrant Accountability Bill)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In 25 years of working in politics and public policy, SB 60 is the best piece of lawmaking I’ve ever been a part of. It is smart. It is focused. It addresses real problems in a way that ensures public safety, protects freedom and promotes economic prosperity. Perhaps more importantly, it reflects Utah culture – meaning it’s an expression of the will of the people. As someone involved in the crafting of the Utah Compact, I can testify to this Committee that SB 60 reflects the spirit and letter of that document. It also comports with Governor Herbert’s six guiding principles.

SB 60 represents the alternative path to Arizona’s approach. SB 60 is authentically conservative public policy. It is based on reality – the reality that undocumented immigrants live in Utah; the reality that they are human beings, the same as the rest of us; the reality that they are more than just “workers”; the reality that many of their children are U.S citizens; the reality that without them our state economy would suffer dramatically.

SB 60 is conservative policy because it respects local law enforcement and the power of community to solve real crimes. It’s conservative policy because it recognizes that accountability is the best enforcement mechanism, and that buy-in from the community most affected is essential to the success of law enforcement.

SB 60 embraces state sovereignty. Is it unconstitutional? We’ll see. I don’t think it is. SB 60 is NOT an employment bill for undocumented immigrants; it’s an accountability bill that protects our public safety and, in that process, permits people of good will to provide for their families until the federal government decides what it will do. It does not change anyone’s legal status. It is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It gives no special permissions to anyone.

SB 60 takes an unfunded mandate handed to us by the federal government and turns it into human productivity and state revenue. Instead of costing taxpayers money, SB 60 is self-funding – in fact, it would make lots of money for the state – and it would broaden our tax base.

Mr. Chairman, you know I’m a sports guy, a basketball guy. By analogy, I can’t believe the other team – the “enforcement-only” crowd – is even still in the game. Their logic is tortured. Their facts are indescribably incorrect. But the politics of fear are powerful. Our jails aren’t full of immigrant criminals. There is no “brown scourge” overrunning our state. Nobody knows what’s in the human heart, but we do know fear, ignorance and hatred when we see it.

Currently, there are three legislative schools of thought competing with SB 60. The first is the “enforcement-only” way of doing things represented by HB 70. The second is a simple guest worker program represented by HB 116. The third school of thought is some mingling of the two.

What I’d like to impress upon your minds, in closing, is this question: No matter which path you take, how will it be received by the immigrant community most affected by it?

We know the effect of “enforcement-only.” We see what’s happening in Arizona. But what you might not realize is how derogatory the term “guest worker” is to Utah’s immigrant community. Do immigrants come to Utah to work? Yes, and so do you and I wake up every morning and go to work. But, especially as conservatives, we know our humanity is defined by more than our work. SB 60 is humane. It recognizes the whole human person. Bills that emphasize “guest worker programs” won’t be as compelling to the very people whose buy-in we’ll need to make anything work.

Mr. Chairman, mingling those two ideas won’t work in practice. If each school of thought, standing on its own, won’t be compelling for the target population, mingling the two won’t be either. It might make sense to get votes in a closed political body, but its practical effect will be disappointing to say the least. Nothing will matter if the affected immigrant community doesn’t buy it.

SB 60 is the answer. If passed, it will be a model for our nation – an innovative approach that we can be proud of.

Lastly, I want to publicly thank Senator Robles. I want to say how proud I am of her. If you think Representatives Sandstrom and Herrod have had a hard time of it, imagine what it must be like to do the same hard work, in the face of the same dangers and criticisms, when you’re a single-female, Hispanic, Democratic state legislator in Utah. She has earned my unwavering respect.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.