Utah Housewife Deals Devastating Blow to State's 'Guestworker' Law

By Ronald W. Mortensen on June 20, 2011

In a stinging rebuke to political, business, religious and media elites, Republican Party activists led by a Utah housewife have dealt what may well be a deathblow to Utah's misguided and fatally flawed guestworker/amnesty law (HB116).

HB116 promises a Utah-issued guestworker permit to thousands of illegal aliens and their families as long as they currently live or work in Utah or if they have ever lived and worked in Utah. It has been widely touted by proponents as the "Utah Solution" and a compassionate model for federal immigration reform. Opponents have labeled it "Bramnesty" in honor of its sponsor, state Sen. Curtis Bramble.

When HB116 became law, amnesty proponents celebrated a major victory and proclaimed it to be a model for the nation. The powerful interests supporting the law undoubtedly thought that efforts to promote amnesty in other states and at the federal level were well on their way to realization.

However, Keri Witte thought otherwise and she was joined by a small band of equally determined citizens in an effort to repeal HB116, which Arturo Morales, a legal immigrant from Mexico, labeled the "Utah Confusion."

Under her leadership and with the tireless efforts by a handful of volunteers, resolutions calling for the repeal of HB116 passed at Republican Party conventions in three of Utah's largest counties. The powerful supporters of HB116 were shocked when it passed at the Utah County convention, which is the home of the bill's sponsor, as well as of the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives (who ramrodded it through the Utah House in the dead of night) and the governor who signed it.

An almost unanimous vote in favor of repeal took place a short time later at the Washington County GOP convention.

After facing a series of stinging defeats, powerful interests staged an all-out effort to prevent a repeal motion from passing the Republican state convention.

The Utah housewife and her band of citizen volunteers suddenly faced opposition from some of the most powerful political, business, and religious organizations in Utah, and even a Washington, D.C.-based K Street lobbying group, American Principles in Action, joined the battle to save HB116 and amnesty. That only increased the resolve of Witte and her allies.

She took on Utah's self-proclaimed business leader, the very powerful Salt Lake Chamber when it rushed to the defense of HB116, which was largely based on the Chamber's 2008 proposal for a guestworker program.

Witte refused to cede any ground to the Sutherland Institute, which claims to be the "leading conservative think tank in the state of Utah", when it put out misleading report after misleading report in an effort to save HB116.

She went head to head with the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Curtis Bramble, at the state convention where he personally took the microphone to save his beloved "Bramnesty."

She stood patiently by as Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, one of the strongest supporters of illegal aliens in Utah, towered over her and fed the delegates at the state convention one of the greatest political fairy tales ever told.

She didn't flinch when the very influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) and its media empire (Deseret News, KSL-TV, KSL-Radio) tried to stave off repeal.

And she wasn't intimidated when the American Principles in Action lobbying group sent multiple slick mailings full of half-truths and outright distortions to delegates, conducted push polls, and even established a presence at the convention in order to stop the repeal resolution.

This past Saturday, June 18, 2011, when the showdown finally came, a majority of delegates (53 percent) at the Utah state Republican organizing convention sided with the housewife against the elites and passed a resolution that:

(1) "Expresses concern that some Republican legislators voted for HB116 and that our Republican Governor signed the act, insomuch as it clearly violates State and National Republican Party Platforms and faces serious Constitutional challenges," and

(2) Urges all Utah State Republican Legislators and the Governor to repeal HB116; and ensure that any immigration legislation is fully constitutional and adheres to the principles of the Republican Party Platform.

Thus a lone Utah housewife and a handful of dedicated citizens defeated the most powerful interests in the state of Utah, sent the American Principles in Action group limping back to Washington, D.C., and told the nation that Bramnesty is not the "Utah Solution" or a model for federal immigration reform.

It was a good day indeed.