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‘Criminal aliens’ beware

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In "Fiddler on the Roof," the rabbi is asked if there is a blessing for the czar. He ponders the idea then says, "May God bless and keep the czar; far away from us!" Many undocumented workers in Utah feel the same way about the federal government. The farther away it is, the better.

That's why the news that Utah will now be home to a federal immigration court triggered some anxiety among their ranks. The idea of having the judicial system looking over their shoulder is unnerving.

Still, those immigrants in the know — those who have learned that American justice isn't as arbitrary as it is in other countries — realize that the state needs to get a handle on its immigration problem if it is to help those who are worthy and punish the wicked. In other words, Utah needs tools to weed out the bad seeds and cultivate the good ones.

The new court is one of those tools.

Sen. Orrin Hatch should be commended for his efforts to bring one solution to the state's immigration dilemma closer to home. The new court will allow for swifter justice and more equitable mercy. In 2003, more than 1,000 immigrant cases requiring adjudication cropped up in Utah. That's compared to 340 cases in 2000. This year will likely produce even more. At the moment, those cases are handled in Denver. And that leads to delays, backlogs and weeks of frustration for both immigrants, their families, their employers, their lawyers and the state. The new court will be able to deal quickly and effectively with "criminal aliens" and speed the process for those with families and jobs left hanging in the lurch while Colorado was being consulted.

Before Utah can deal effectively with its immigration woes, it has to get a handle on them. The court will allow the Immigration and Customs Enforcement people here to do that. The ICE can now shuttle along time-consuming appeals and decisions and open up more time to deal with more pressing problems and other aspects of the burgeoning immigrant population.

At the moment, Salt Lake City ranks third in the nation when it comes to cities where immigrants choose to put down roots and set up house. And tossed into that mix are people who have ill will on their minds.

The new court will allow the criminal justice system to shorten, to a degree, the long arm of the law needed to haul them in.