News | Moving the Message: Senate passes resolution for the creation of an immigrant guest-worker program. | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

News | Moving the Message: Senate passes resolution for the creation of an immigrant guest-worker program. 

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A Senate concurrent resolution supporting the creation of a state guest-worker program for undocumented immigrants inched closer to passing today, as it cleared the Senate floor 22-to-3, with 4 absent. S.C.R. 1 is simply a message to be sent to the federal government. While that means that it may have more bark than bite, the resolution still puts the feds on notice that Utah will seek to chart its own destiny over immigration if they don’t take action.

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"We wanted to put pressure on the federal government to address [undocumented immigration]," said resolution sponsor Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City. "Or let us address it." The resolution asks the federal government for a waiver to allow the state to create an "employer-sponsored work program" that would allow undocumented immigrants to work legally in the state, so long as they entered their fingerprints and information into the system. The program would also allow for Medicare and FICA benefits to be withheld from their pay to both help fund the program and allow workers to receive benefits. The guest workers would be allowed two-year contracts with the possibility of renewal.

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Jenkins noted support of the resolution from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, which would also apply pressure to the federal government by lobbying through national chamber associations. The idea was also part of a study released by the conservative think tank, the Sutherland Institute.

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The resolution passed easily and was well received. “I applaud the Senator [Jenkins] for taking a different approach to such a divisive issue,” said Sen. Luz Robles D-Salt Lake City. However, she also conceded immigration legislation ideally should be dealt with at the federal level.

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Support, however, was not unanimous. "As long as we have Utahns out of work, we have to take care of our own first," said Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, before casting her nay vote.

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nThe resolution is one of several to have come out of the special 2008 immigration interim session and will now be heading to the House for consideration.
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