Yesterday, the House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee voted 6 to 1 to approve HB116 (Guest Worker Program Act) . This is a troubling and disappointing vote, considering that HB116 violates federal statute, the Utah Constitution, and the US Constitution (the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel went so far as to attach a constitutionality warning to the bill). For these reasons, some of the legislators on the committee acknowledged that they did not support the bill — but they voted for it anyway. They claim they want to hear the subject debated on the House floor. Apparently these legislators do not understand the screening duties of committees, nor their duty to boldly defend our laws and constitutions.
The legislators who voted for this bill in committee were:
In its current form, HB116 provisions include:
- Initiate a Utah state guest worker program for illegal immigrants living within Utah.
- Offer an unlimited number of unlimited-renewal, two-year guest worker permits for any illegal immigrant who has lived or worked in the US prior to May 10, 2011 (this late date provides a magnet for drawing illegals to the US and to Utah).
- Require the Governor to request a waiver from those federal laws which prohibit the hiring of illegal immigrants. The bill states that the guest worker program will remain intact even if a waiver cannot be obtained. (Note: waivers from federal law do not exist).
- Program begins July 1, 2013, with or without federal approval (sooner if federal approval is granted).
- The primary guest worker could obtain permits for all of his/her immediate family members, including minors (with parental permission).
- The guest worker card would be valid as identification (something that has been prohibited even for driving privilege cards).
- Require the State Tax Commission to invent a way to collect federal income tax from illegal workers (since they do not have Social Security numbers), or receive a federal waiver to give SSNs to guest workers.
- Requires a background check for criminal history and fingerprints, but requires no proof of identification (such as a passport or birth certificate – documents Americans are required to produce when applying for licenses, programs, etc).
- Have health insurance, or pay a fine.
- Receive a driver privilege card, but agree not to drive in Utah (how much sense does that make??).
- Employers would not be protected from the consequences of breaching federal immigration law (since a state guest worker program is illegal).
- Employees would not be protected from the consequences of breaching federal immigration law (since a state guest worker program is illegal); additionally, information obtained from the guest worker in the application process could be used against him/her in deportation hearings.
Most of those who spoke in favor of this bill during the committee hearing were ranchers and farmers who complained they 1) couldn’t get enough temporary workers, or 2) did not like the cost and red tape involved in the existing federal guest worker H1b and H2b visa programs (ie, they want cheap labor at the expense of American workers and American laws). The bill’s sponsor, Representative Bill Wright (R-Holden), is himself a dairy farmer who may benefit from this legislation (is it ethical to carry legislation that benefits your own business?).
Something the committee failed to consider is that this bill places no limitations on the business sectors involved in the proposed Utah guest worker program. While many are focused on their ability to hire unskilled Latino workers, this bill provides that any illegal immigrant can apply for a guest worker card, and any employer can hire that illegal immigrant, whether that immigrant is from Ecuador or England. This should worry every employed Utahn — if your employer can find an illegal immigrant to do your job for less than you will, they could use this guest worker program to replace you.
With unemployment hovering near 10%, it makes no sense to propose an unconstitutional guest worker program that would keep (or put) Americans out of work. I hope every Utahn will contact their legislators and ask them to VOTE NO ON HB116.