By Sheila Sarmiento
An immigration enforcement bill, allowing state and local law enforcement officers to function as a federal immigration officer, failed to reach the Senate on Wednesday.
According to the proposal sponsored by Rep. Glenn A. Donnelson (R-North Ogden), this bill would have made possible for the “local enforcement agency to enter into an agreement with the Secretary of Homeland Security to allow certain local enforcement officers to perform certain functions of a federal immigration officer.”
Donnelson remained optimistic on Wednesday that the bill would be approved, but it was one of the last ones of a long list of bills to be discussed that night.
The legislative session ended at midnight on Wednesday without time to debate or vote on the issue, which means Donnelson will have to wait until next year if he wants to introduced it again to the Senate.
“I was very opposed to it,” said Rep. Dave Litvack (D-Salt Lake City). “Local officers are not there to enforce immigration federal laws. It”s contrary of what we expect in our local level.”
Litvack said he voted and spoke against this bill because of the negative effects that this law would have brought to the undocumented community in Utah.
“They [local enforcement officers] have to have the trust of the community,” Litvack said. “Having our local officers acting as immigration officers would destroy that trust.”
An immigration enforcement bill has recently been approved in Arizona.
This new law will focus on the Phoenix area; the plan is for local authorities to combat border-related crimes such as drug and human smuggling.
Members of the Phoenix police and the Arizona Department of Public Safety who complete the Immigration and Customs Enforcement training will be able to act as federal officers in the next few weeks.
The purpose of the bill was to get the cooperation of local officers. However, under the law, local authorities could decide whether or not they wanted to participate in the program.
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said several local officers were not planning to participate on the immigration enforcement program even if the law had been approved.
“Our undocumented community can relax for the time being,” Yapias said in an e-mail interview. “Personally, I want to thank all the many Latinos, supporters and legislators on both Houses who made it possible to keep these bills from getting voted.”