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Senate panel rejects resolution urging halt to Utah illegal immigration bills

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee shot down a resolution Thursday urging Utah not to pass illegal immigration reform until the federal government addresses the problem.

SJR18, sponsored by Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, further encouraged legislators to meet with the state's congressional delegation to discuss the role each could play in solving the issue.

The GOP majority on the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee voted the measure down 2-1.

Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, said for a lot of people, the federal government is "waiting ’til hell freezes over" to act on illegal immigration. States, he said, "have every right" to pass laws if Congress won't.

Romero said afterward it's a "little curious" that the Senate earlier approved a similar resolution but not his. SJR12, which passed unanimously, also calls on the federal government to fix illegal immigration. It differs from Romero's resolution in that it calls for that authority to go to the states if Congress doesn't act.

The Democrat also noted his party doesn't have the numbers to move much legislation, and that Republicans don't want to stop illegal immigration bills working their way through the Legislature.

In his presentation, Romero mentioned the Utah Compact, a set of principles aiming to guide the illegal immigration debate.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, noted the word "illegal" does not appear in the document. "I think it's misleading at a time when we're talking about illegal immigration," she said.

"You're using immigration and illegal immigration as if they're the same thing," she told Romero.

Romero replied that the two are "absolutely tied together. You cannot solve one without the other."

Todd Landfried, spokesman for Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, told the committee that "ill-considered" state laws will hurt Utah's economy as they have Arizona's.

"Doing something doesn't meant doing anything," he said. "While Arizona is leading, it's not leading in a direction you want to follow."