Last Friday, the Utah legislature passed a state version of “comprehensive immigration reform” — an amnesty for illegal aliens (in the form of a guestworker program) in exchange for promises of future enforcement. (Colleagues of mine have written about it here and here.)
For all the jubilation on the pro-amnesty side, it’s not clear to me why this is considered so important. The bill itself acknowledges that “one or more waivers, exemptions, or authorizations” would be required from the federal government to implement the program, but that’s putting it in very understated terms. A state-run amnesty program wouldn’t just require a signature from some bureaucrat in D.C. — it would require legislation, which I assume is the point of the exercise, to create momentum for national “comprehensive immigration reform.” In the absence of a waiver by 2013, the amnesty is supposed to go into effect anyway, which I assume is intended to prompt a lawsuit from the Justice Department. But the bill also has enforcement provisions which don’t require federal waivers; if, as seems likely, they go into effect without the amnesty part, then it would appear that the immigration hawks got the better end of this deal.
The legislature also passed another, enforcement-only bill that would go into effect later this year, so it’s not clear that we’d be worse off if the governor signed both bills. My correspondent in Utah says it’s possible the governor will veto both the amnesty and the enforcement bills, which may not be so bad since he thinks they’ll be able to get a stronger enforcement bill next year, since it’s an election year. But I’m told it’s unlikely the governor would veto just the amnesty bill since the Mormon Church is so committed to it.