"There have been some amendments made, but it is still a good solid substantive bill," said Ron Mortensen with Citizens for Tax Fairness, who has been an advocate for stronger immigration laws throughout the Legislative session.
"HB 257 has already passed the House and it came out of the Senate committee so it is looking good. It is kind of a stand-alone bill that covers some of the same issues in case SB 81 doesn't pass."
Mortensen gave a presentation to the committee last Wednesday about the immigration bills that include e-Verify, which Mortensen said is crucial to stopping identity theft. He said that illegals often buy Social Security numbers to obtain employment, but with e-Verify employers can run the numbers through a database to see if they are valid.
Wes Smith, director of Government Relations for Exoro Group also spoke to the committee about a new group that has been formed called the Immigration Policy Coalition (IPC) that would represent business interests in the immigration issue.
The coalition has concerns over business owners being held liable for inadvertently hiring illegals. After Smith's presentation the committee agreed to back SB 97 which would create a task force to look at all of the immigration issues. Committee member Brad Wilson was asked to be the representative from the Chamber to be part of the IPC.
However, since the meeting took place, the IPC has come out in support of SB81. "We support the new version of the bill," said Robin Riggs, vice president and general counsel for the Salt Lake City Chamber, who leads the coalition. "There are still more changes coming, but we were able to get changes to the bill that would protect a business that has done its due diligence yet hired an illegal inadvertently."
But Riggs said the IPC still doesn't support any of the other immigration bills including HB 257. He said the coalition will continue to work on changes to that bill before the Senate votes.
"The purpose of the coalition is to educate the public about the bills as we move forward," said Riggs. "There is a lot of work to be done."
At press time, the Davis County Chamber was still supportive of the IPC, but Wilson agreed that immigration is a complicated matter and in large measure should be considered at the Federal level.
"We need to find ways to solve the problem in a way to help businesses, not hurt them," said Wilson. "I would like to see a more holistic approach. If we make requirements at the state level, it is a slippery slope. We will be only one step away from requiring it from all businesses."
Wilson said the chamber would like to make an` immigration subcommittee to study the issues and how it would impact Davis County. "We will see what happens this session then look to next year," he said. "I totally see we need to do something."
Given the changes in SB81 since the committee met last week, it may decide to change its stance on the bill at its upcoming Wednesday meeting.