GOP Convention Deals Blow to Utah's Illegal Immigration Advocates

By Ronald W. Mortensen on May 11, 2010

Utah's Republican Party conventions have not been good to elected officials who have consistently sided with the advocates for illegal aliens.

U.S. Sen. Robert Bennett and two senior state legislators were denied the opportunity to even run for the seats they currently hold. Two state legislators with spotty records on immigration-related issues were forced into primary election contests and four other legislators whom illegal aliens counted as friends retired from the Utah House of Representatives.

Sen. Robert Bennett had supported comprehensive immigration reform that included amnesty from identity theft and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens who had committed identity theft. In addition, he slipped an amendment into a 2005 Department of Agriculture appropriations bill that exempts religious organizations from immigration law and allows them to harbor, transport, and use the volunteer services of illegal aliens.

In the Utah House of Representatives, two of the strongest advocates for illegal aliens were thrown out of office by delegates and not even given the opportunity to defend their seats in a primary election.

Long time state Rep. Steve Mascaro lost his seat when 77 percent of the 1,500 Salt Lake County delegates supported his opponent. (Under Utah's convention system, any candidate who gets 60 percent of the delegate vote at their party's convention automatically becomes the party's nominee.)

In addition to Mascaro, Rep. Ben Ferry, the chair of the House Rules Committee, was knocked out of the running during the state GOP convention when his opponent received 60.3 percent of the delegate vote. Ferry is the son of a former President of the Utah Senate and had dreams of being Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives.

Over the years, Mascaro and Ferry have consistently worked to kill bills that prevented illegal aliens from committing multiple job-related felonies including document fraud, perjury on I-9 forms, and identity theft. Both did everything possible to allow employers to blatantly hire illegal aliens who were using the identities of an estimated 50,000 Utah children. Both were strong defenders of in-state college tuition for illegal aliens.

In 2009, when a bill was introduced that left in-state college tuition in place for illegal aliens but required them to refrain from committing multiple job-related felonies in order to get jobs to pay for their tuition, Mascaro and Ferry helped kill it on the floor of the Utah House.

During the 2010 legislative session, Mascaro and Ferry opposed an employment verification bill designed to protect Utah children from illegal-alien-driven, job-related identity theft. In addition, Ferry refused to release a bill from the Rules Committee that would have abolished in-state tuition for illegal aliens until it was too late for it to advance.

In addition, two other state representatives with mixed records on immigration matters – Rep. Becky Edwards and Rep. Mel Brown – were forced into primary elections. Both had voted in 2009 to allow students to commit felonies while receiving in-state tuition benefits but in 2010 they both voted to protect children from illegal-alien-driven identity theft by requiring employers to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires.

Four other pro-illegal alien representatives - Sheryl Allen, Laurie Fowlke, Stephen Clark, and Kevin Garn – are not running for the legislature in 2010. Interestingly, Republican Sheryl Allen is the running mate of the Democratic candidate for governor.

Although Dave Clark, Speaker of the Utah House, voted to allow illegal alien students to commit multiple job-related felonies and held up the bill that would have abolished in-state tuition in 2010, he did vote for the bill that protects Utah children from identity theft. He is running unopposed so he will hold his seat, but he could face a leadership challenge if conservatives increase their numbers substantially.

While it is too early to tell how the new legislators will vote on immigration-related issues, illegal aliens and their advocates must be concerned that the very strong support they have traditionally had in the Utah House of Representatives has been sharply eroded.

At the gubernatorial level, incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert won his party's nomination in spite of being seen as weak on illegal immigration by many Utahns, including Tea Party and 9/12 activists.

In 2010, it took strong pressure from the general public and Utah's Tea Party groups to get Herbert to reluctantly sign a bipartisan bill that protects Utah children from job-related identity theft committed by pedophiles, dead-beat parents, criminals trying to hide their identities, sexual predators, and illegal aliens.

Herbert has consistently stated that Hispanics are the future of the Republican Party in Utah and he is sympathetic to employers who hire illegal aliens.

Under pressure from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic groups, Herbert promised to call a special session of the state legislature to make the new child protection law that he just signed voluntary for a year rather than allowing it to take effect as scheduled on July 1, 2010. This would allow thousands of illegal aliens fleeing Arizona to obtain jobs in Utah using stolen identities and for still more sexual predators, criminals, dead-beat parents, and pedophiles to slip by under Utah's newly weakened law.

If Herbert wins his race this fall, he will likely get an opportunity to sign a number of illegal immigration bills next year. A bill very similar to the Arizona law currently has significant support and a bill to abolish in-state college tuition for illegal aliens may finally be able to clear the House given the departure of so many pro-illegal alien Representatives.

When the bills get to his desk, Gov. Herbert will have to choose between protecting the citizens who elected him or supporting illegal aliens and their supporters. It will be interesting to see whose side he comes down on.