Utah Congressional Candidate Addresses Critics at Immigration Panel

Participating in a panel discussion on immigration issues in Salt Lake City on December 6, Utah State Representative Stephen Sandstrom, who recently announced his bid to run for the state’s 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, faced some tough questions.

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Salt Lake City Main Library for the panel, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, and some members of the audience took Sandstrom to task for HB497, a hard-line immigration reform measure that he authored, which became law in March.

One audience member asked Sandstrom if he thought a path for citizenship should be provided for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for a decade or longer, City Weekly reported. Sandstrom responded that a pathway to citizenship should only be considered after federal lawmakers have made legal immigration easier and beefed up enforcement measures, such as adding additional border security.

Sandstrom also reiterated his position that E-verify, a system for checking the citizenship status of prospective workers, should be made a mandatory part of the hiring process for employers nationally. Utah law requires certain businesses to sign up with E-verify, but does not stipulate enforcement measures to punish non-compliance. The candidate also touted a bill he sponsored to provide work visas for Mexican agricultural workers.

A fellow panelist, immigration attorney Roger Tsai, pointedly critiqued Sandstrom, saying that laws such as HB497 create a climate of oppression and fear without actually doing anything to resolve immigration issues, which can only be addressed at the federal level.

City Weekly quoted Tsai as saying of state legislators, “They can’t determine who gets a visa and who gets a green card. It’s a farce to say we can fix it. I think it’s misplaced political attention.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block HB497, and the case is scheduled to be heard in February 2012.