Utah Tires of Waiting On Washington

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Cliff Owen/AP

The Beehive State is unholstering both carrot and stick. In an effort to regulate immigration (without alienating Latino voters), the GOP-controlled legislature passed an innovative reform plan on March 4. One part toughens enforcement; another creates a guest-worker program. The enforcement portion would require officials to check the immigration status of anyone who is arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor and can't provide identification. The guest-worker measure would allow illegal immigrants who can prove they have been living or working in Utah to apply for a two-year work permit--but only after passing a criminal-background check and paying a fine of up to $2,500. Carrot and stick "go hand in hand," says state representative Bill Wright, who sponsored the house's guest-worker measure.

Governor Gary Herbert, who is under pressure by some Republicans to veto the plan, has until March 30 to make a decision. If approved, the guest-worker program won't go into effect until the state gets a waiver--since federal law prohibits knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants--or July 2013, whichever comes first. That means Washington can slow its adoption but won't be able to stop it without a legal fight.