Utah, What Have You Done?
Much has been made recently of the Utah Legislature's efforts in regards to passing a "balanced' immigration bill. Specifically balancing the hatred and bias of an Arizona "style" immigration enforcement bill, with a bill which purports to grant legal status to undocumented people and creates a temporary worker program.
The impact of this legislation just hit home here in Georgia. A client just came into my office to ask about getting the "Utah Green Card." This is exactly what I was afraid of when I talked with the folks in Utah about the proposal they were formulating to counter the anti-immigration legislation that was enjoying so much publicity. The Utah legislature has created a myth, a myth that will only grow bigger as rumors of the "Utah Green Card" circulate in all immigrant communities around the U.S.
What does this mean for immigrants and for Utah? I have no doubt that if the Governor of Utah signs this legislation that a LOT of people will be moving to Utah in search of this elusive "Utah Green Card." People do not realize that the Utah legislature has enacted a law that gives the impression of giving hope to the hopeless, when in reality this hope is false. The Federal Government is never going to allow Utah to run its own guest worker program, and certainly will not allow Utah to permit people to work with the "Utah Green Card," who are otherwise unable to fill out an I-9 or pass an E-Verify check (which is also mandatory under the Utah law).
I certainly appreciate the good motives that were behind this legislation, and I suppose the real purpose of this legislation was to ameliorate or even stop the Arizona style bills that have now passed through the same legislature. But all Utah has done is pass Arizona style laws without any upside, since the purported upside is nothing but an illusion.
Immigration lawyers around the country will now start fighting the battle of truth. The battle to tell people that despite what they have heard, that there is no "Utah Green Card." That the law gives no effective benefits, and that by trying to obtain such a card they will do nothing more than flush their money down the drain.
All that said, I applaud the Legislators, the Business Community, the Churches, and the Conservative groups in Utah who stood up for what was right and just. They were all doing what they felt Congress had not done--fixing our broken immigration system. Unfortunately, there is only one organization that can do that. Until Congress acts, under REAL leadership from President Obama, we will keep fighting these state fights and we will keep having to tell our clients that what they hear and see is not real, but rather, an illusion.