The Truth About HB 116: FAQ


Critics of HB 116 have tried their best to dissect the new law and uncover its flaws with the intent to have it repealed.

In an effort to clear the air, here are a few answers to questions we often hear:

Does HB 116 violate the U.S. constitution?

No. HB 116 does not change or affect the legal status of any undocumented immigrant. Hence, it does not create new federal immigration policy.

HB 116 focuses on immigrants already living, working and raising their families in Utah. HB 116 is a perfect example of a sovereign state exercising its right to ensure public safety, protect freedoms and promote its economic prosperity.

HB 116 is consti­tutional as a legal basis for Utah to protect its citizens against unaccountability or lawlessness. It creates a functional mechanism for all undocumented immigrants in Utah to become accountable.

What does HB 116 do to help with identity theft?

HB 116 will prevent future identity theft because each immigrant will have a work permit and will not have any need to steal an identity. HB 116 also contains provisions that permit financial restitution to victims of identity theft.

This is part of the genius of HB 116: It eliminates the need for stolen IDs, it prioritizes hunting down the real criminals, it holds all undocumented immigrants accountable to society, and it provides opportunities for financial restitution paid for by the undocumented immigrant community.

Won’t HB 116 create a “sanctuary state”?

HB 116 is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. It requires admission by an undocumented immigrant that he or she is in Utah illegally; it requires a stiff fee or fine; it requires a thorough criminal background check; it requires actual work for the permit holder; it requires complete accountability from the permit holder’s immediate family, and the same from Utah employers who hire permit holders.

That’s a very high bar of accountability – so high that only those immigrants already here, who have already made sacrifices to be here with their families, who have already shown their ability to live peaceably and productively among us, are likely to accept those terms.

Some critics cite line 746 in HB 116 referencing a specific date, May 10, 2011, by which time a potential permit holder would have had to live or work in Utah. During the legislative debate, a few elected officials claimed that such a date would entice floods of immigrants to come to Utah before the deadline. No such flood of immigrants has occurred.

Does HB 116 put a drain on our welfare system?

Federal law requires the educating, medicating or incarcerating of any person in the United States that is of school age, in need of medical care in an emergency room, or an actual criminal, respectively. This is true of citizen and non-citizen alike.

Undocumented immigrants cannot and do not legally receive state and federal welfare. That was law before HB 116 and it remains law within HB 116.

Doesn’t HB 116 require us to foot the bill for undocumented immigrant health care?

The provision in HB 116 is plain. It simply states that to receive a work permit an applicant must show that he or she has basic health care – not government care, not emergency room care, but privately owned, privately acquired, basic health care.

Does HB 116 favor hiring undocumented immigrants over legal Utah citizens?

This entire debate would be largely irrelevant if American workers would do the sort of work that immigrants do.

In reply, critics also argue that if farmers, construction companies and fast-food restaurants would pay more, American workers would fill those jobs. But there is no credible research, let alone actual experience, supporting this argument.

Does HB 116 redefine the status of illegal aliens as legal in Utah?

No. Criticisms to the contrary stem from a provision of HB 116 that exempts U.S. citizens from laws against “transporting or harboring aliens” who hold a new work permit. As mentioned from the outset, HB 116 doesn’t change the legal status of any undocumented immigrant, so the charge is false.

This particular provision of HB 116 under scrutiny by critics pertains to U.S. citizens who interface with undocumented immigrants holding a work permit. It doesn’t pertain to the immigrants. “Legalese” can be confusing to an undiscerning or inexperienced eye, but this provision, within the section it rests, is clear in meaning.

Is it true that HB 116 requires Utah to seek nonexistent waiver to violate federal law and the U.S. Constitution?

HB 116 does require the Department of Public Safety to negotiate “one or more waivers, exemptions or au­thorizations to implement the program.” The request for a “nonexistent” waiver is true because, well, the waiver does not yet exist. The waiver must be created by con­gressional approval or executive understanding.

Current federal immigration law is statutory and can be amended easily at any time Congress agrees to change it.

Can’t an undocumented immigrant get a family permit without a background check?

The bill states that if you’re an undocumented immigrant in Utah and are over 18 years old, you’ll need to enter the work permit system or face possible criminal prosecution. There is no such requirement for the permit holder’s dependents.

This level of accountability and personal responsibility is very much a part of our Utah heritage – we believe in family. Families have dependents who choose not to work, are too young to work or are better positioned as a parent inside the home. HB 116 respects families.

What about international criminals and terrorists? Won’t HB 116 create a sanctuary for them?

The background checks required by HB 116 are run through the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. If Utah becomes home to terrorists, it won’t be because of HB 116.

Won’t HB 116 put employers at risk of committing felonies under federal law by hiring permit holders?

No. HB 116 indemnifies Utah employers who participate in its work permit program. By indemnifying businesses with licensing and permitting provisions through the state, HB 116 protects business owners from any personal risk.

Also, there is no indication from the U.S. Department of Justice that it has any intention of prosecution in this instance.

Doesn’t HB 116 create a two-year permit with unlimited renewals and a one-time fee, resulting in de facto amnesty?

No. The Department of Public Safety, administering HB 116, has authority granted within the bill to set renewal fees (at lines 832-847).

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