Sandstrom presented his bill flanked by as many as 40 activists and critics holding signs that read “Who would Jesus deport?” and “This law is fascist.” The activists were mostly silent until Sandstrom told the gathering: “This is not about race,” a comment immediately met with boos and derisive laughter, a pattern to be repeated throughout the press conference. “Illegal is not a race,” Sandstrom continued. “It is a crime.”
Sandstrom prefaced his speech by saying how thousands of citizens of Utah including numerous Latinos were vocal to him about the need for stricter immigration enforcement--again they were not the Utahns present at the press conference.
“The Obama administration is complicit with allowing illegal immigration to thrive in our country,” Sandstrom said. “And I’m not going to sit idly by and allow this to happen.” In explaining the major points of the 12-page bill, Sandstrom explained that this was a unique bill to Utah and was not an “Arizona-lite” bill.
A major difference, Sandstrom says, are that his bill would allow law enforcement only to question the immigration status of a particular individual violating a law, not the people with that person. In a situation where, for example, an officer might pull over a car full of people, he only would be able to question the status of the individual in the car violating the law. The only exception to that would be if the officer suspected human trafficking was present at the scene, at which point, the officer could question other individuals’ statuses.
Sandstrom’s bill also avoided following the Arizona bill’s lead in prohibiting loitering in areas where immigrant day laborers congregate to be picked up for work. It also wouldn’t cause Latinos and others to fear that they must carry identification with them at all times Sandstrom said, since if questioned, an individual could just make an oral affirmation to an officer that they are a legal resident or citizen.
Another aspect of the bill would allow legal residents to sue any government agency or entity that tries to limit enforcement of the bill. Such agencies could face a fine ranging between $500 and $5,000 per day for being in violation, with the penalty fees going to help fund Utah’s Strike Force established in the 2009 legislative session to target major and violent felony crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The bill would not target individual law officers for example, Sandstrom said. “I don’t want to target officers.”
Sandstrom also noted the bill would, for the first time, prohibit racial profiling in Utah. When asked if it would codify penalties for racial profiling, Sandstrom said it would not. “There’s no penalties--it would just prohibit [racial profiling],” Sandstrom said. While Sandstrom invoked the language of the states’ rights group the Patrick Henry Caucus, he urged the crowd to recognize that his bill would “go no further than current federal law. And the federal law is very clear—illegal is illegal.”
The bill is still in the draft stages and has not yet been assigned a fiscal note.