Utah leaders support immigration bill

- SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 News) – The bipartisan immigration bill unveiled in Washington is getting lots of support from several Utah leaders.

A conference call to discuss the bill was held Wednesday by former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Bishop John C. Wester, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie, Executive Director of the Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance Jason Mathis and Tim Wheelwright, Partner at Kuck Immigration Partners.

Wester spoke with ABC 4 News Reporter Cristina Rendon about the importance of the immigration bill.

“To me it’s not the fact that the immigrants have broken the law, the law is breaking them,” Wester said.

Wester knows several undocumented families in the Salt Lake Valley. He said they are not criminals and in some cases they have expired visas.

Wester and other leaders are urging Utah Senators to support the bill.

Senator Mike Lee said he supports most of the bill and agrees with enhancing border security and updating the visa system.

He is not supportive of a 13 year pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants because he feels the government needs to fix legal immigration first before attempting to fix illegal immigration.

“I do know that I favor a step-by-step process rather than a comprehensive process,” Lee said.

Lee said he is still reading through the 844 page bill, but wants the pathway to citizenship taken out of the legislation.

“It needs to be done in a separate bill and it needs to be completed after we’ve bolstered our border security and after we have updated and modernized our existing visa system,” he added.

The bill would likely require undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before December 2011 to pay fines and back taxes before they can earn citizenship.

Wester knows some people don’t support the bill, but he said the system is broke and this is the government’s chance to fix it.

He said people should not look upon undocumented immigrants as illegals, but rather as human beings. From a religious standpoint he said supporting the bill is the loving and charitable thing to do.

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