Cops have a hard enough job without politicians causing people to fear police officers. Ignoring law enforcement, a committee of Utah’s Legislature has green-lighted a bill to require state troopers be trained as immigration agents by the federal Department of Homeland Security. Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank told lawmakers the bill would hamstring his officers throughout the Hispanic community. But Utah legislators are on a mission. The speaker of the house wants the state to buy Salt Lake County’s Oxbow jail and turn it into an illegal-immigrant-detention center. It seems fear of immigrants is the one thing on Capitol Hill that trumps fear of the LDS Church, which recently asked legislative leaders to treat immigrants with compassion.
A state audit finds Utah’s much maligned “driver privilege card”—a driver license substitute for immigrants—is having its desired effect: Immigrants driving Utah roads have been through driver education and purchased insurance for their cars. According to the Legislative Auditor General, 76 percent of driver-privilege card recipients insure their vehicles—still below insurance rates for motorists with old-fashioned driver licenses, but increasing every year. The audit additionally found ever-increasing numbers of immigrants are signing up for required driving tests. The number of driver-privilege cards issued in 2007 was up nearly 40 percent from the year before. Bottom line: The system works, and all Utah drivers are safer for it. Naturally, members of Utah’s Legislature have proposed pulling the plug.
The federal government’s own scientists say Las Vegas’ plan to drill for water near Utah’s border will dry up the area’s ecosystem and harm national wildlife refuges. But then, it’s been a long time since science—particularly environmental science—counted for much to the federal government. Four federal agencies that initially opposed Las Vegas’ plans to pump water from rural Nevada to fuel urban growth withdrew their protests in January. In exchange, the agencies got only promise from Las Vegas that, should the predicted environmental disasters occur, Las Vegas will stop pumping. Utah’s west desert ranchers think that’s backwards. Once the water now feeding Utah crops is being piped to thousands of Vegas homes, the ranchers doubt the taps can ever be turned off.