Utah legislators passed two measures Friday that set the state on a different course than Arizona. One measure is an enforcement one and would require police to check the immigration status of those stopped on suspicion of committing felonies and misdemeanors. The measure's most controversial provision - an Arizona-style section allowing police to stop people based on a "reasonal suspicion" that the person is illegally present - was removed.
The bill is making headlines as well for inclusion of a guest worker provision that will allow the state to issue two year work permits to persons illegally present in the state if they pass a criminal check and pay a $2500 fine. The bill calls on the governor to negotiation a waiver from the federal government to permit the program but also allows the state to proceed even if the federal government refuses.
While it is encouraging to see conservative Republicans recognize the need for compromise on dealing with the illegally present immigrant population, the fact is that the bill is probably unworkable and likely unconstitutional. For the same reason states cannot make their own immigration enformcement progams, they also are not authorized to establish their own work programs. It's the federal government's sole responsibility. Yes, the federal government can delegate responsibilities to the states. But if it does not, then states are not authorized to act on their own.
What might be interesting, however, is if the Obama Administration and Congress are interested in working a deal with Utah so the constitutional question could be sidestepped. I'm not sure how this would work - and I'm not sure those in Utah understand either - but it certainly will be interesting to follow developments.