Continued from Part A
After the debates I hovered among the chairs a little while I waited for the other delegates to clear out so I could get out of the room. As I came out, Jim Farrin was standing near the door talking to a few of the other delegates. After listening for a moment I introduced myself. Since Illegal immigration appeared to be the major issue of the debate, and since it is a subject I have studied some, I wanted to ask a few questions.
Jim reiterated that illegal immigration is really a federal issue and so there was only so much that could be done on the state level. We discussed the federal issue, and he supports the efforts (by President Bush, Chris Cannon, &all) to create a guest worker program. This kind of guest worker program is very much like the registration policy he articulated in the debate.
I told Jim about some of the City “Sanctuary” policies that have been implemented by cities in other states like L.A. and N.Y. where city government employees, including law enforcement officers, are forbidden from inquiring after the immigration status of people. These policies are justified by their creators as a way to permit victims of crimes who are also illegal immigrants to report the crimes without fear of deportation, but they prevent police officers from arresting known illegals based only upon their immigration status. Jim said that he was not aware of any such policies in Utah Cities, or any efforts to establish such, and that he would be against them.
I then asked about the Driver Privilege Cards that the state currently issues to illegal immigrants, and for which he voted (as did most republicans in the legislature I understand). He explained that the cards are clearly marked as not valid for anything except for state sanctioned driving (the illegal immigrants have to pass the state driving test to get one), and to get auto insurance. The problem, he said, is that the illegal immigrants would not know the traffic laws and would get in accidents, but wouldn’t have insurance, and so the victim wouldn’t get any money for damages or injuries. The card allows illegal immigrants to get insurance and requires that they learn the Utah traffic laws, and it allows us to identify them.
I asked him if allowing illegal immigrants to buy insurance was the primary argument in favor of providing the cards and he said yes. That was the main reason why he and so many others voted for it. He also said that he believes that had Steve Sandstrom been in the legislature and understood the issues involved he would have voted for the cards as well.
Jim said that the issue was very complex. That we had children in the state who were brought here illegally by their parents at age two or younger, and after graduating from high school they find they can’t go to college because they are illegal. He indicated that the complex family issues must be considered with sensitivity.
I thanked Jim for his time and asked if it would be ok if I posted about our conversation on my blog. He said it would be fine.
I then moved over to talk to Jeff Buhman, candidate for County Attorney. From my notes on his brief introduction to the delegates after the debate:
Jeff has been working in the county attorney’s office for ten years.
He has prosecuted everything from D.U.Is to Murder. He declared fairly emphatically that the reputation of the County Attorney’s office has been tainted during the last few years. “We are no longer prosecutors; we are paper pushers and bureaucrats.” He said police officers are sending cases to the city offices to avoid having to deal with the county office. He wants better trained prosecutors. He says that the current County Attorney is not involved in prosecuting cases. “I will be involved.”
I introduced myself to Jeff. I decided to stay on the illegal immigration issues, so I asked him what the county attorney’s office is doing about illegal immigration. He mentioned that illegal immigration was very tied to a lot of the drug problems we have in the area.
I asked about city sanctuary policies and if he had seen anything like that in our county. Jeff said that the County Attorney’s office often gave plea bargains to illegals that they don’t offer to legal citizens, because they know that the illegal immigrant is going to get deported anyway. He thinks that is wrong, that we shouldn’t be more lenient on illegals than citizens. He would prosecute them. He says he has a good relationship with the INS officers for our area, but that the current Attorney doesn’t.
Jeff also mentioned that the police officers in out county often let illegal aliens go with only a citation, because it costs so much to lock them up. He said it all came down to money. We discussed, briefly the federal efforts toward a guest worker program. I thanked him and mentioned that I had a blog and he didn’t seem to mind if I posted about our conversation.
So, while Jim Ferrin was right that there are no official “sanctuary policies” in place, Jeff Buhman seemed to indicate that their were some local practices driven by money that amount to leaving illegal aliens with only a citation, and illegal immigrants who commit crimes with lesser charges if they will plead guilty, because they are illegal—an offer that wouldn’t be made to a citizen criminal.
Finally, I got around to chatting with Steve Sandstrom. I stuck to my illegal immigration theme. We discussed what Jim Ferrin had said about the insurance justification for the “Driver Privilege Cards.” He said that issuing the cards only legitimizes their presence in the state, and that realistically illegal aliens aren’t going to purchase auto insurance even if they can. I thought that this was an interesting point and told him that he ought to get some statistics on how many illegal immigrants with Driver Privilege Cards actually buy auto insurance. (I would really like to see some stats on this even if Steve doesn’t get them? Anyone who might know please contact me.)
Steve tauted his ability to make tough decisions. In the legislature, the lawmakers pass bills, but don’t really have to face those who it effects directly. However, on the city council, Steve has had to make tough calls with the people standing right in font of him, crying and pleading. He feels for them, but he has to put his foot down and do what is right. He said he will bring that same ability to the tough decisions that must be made in the legislature.
I would have liked to spend some more time questioning Steve Sandstrom, but it was almost 12:30pm, and I had to get home for a puppet troupe practice (we’re performing at the Draper Library on Monday). So I excused myself and ran home.
Immediately after practice, my little family ran over to my uncle’s church where my cousin and another uncle were performing with their new swing/dance band. We danced for a few hours and then I ran back home because Senator Parley Hellewell was coming over to meet with me a 7:00pm.
I took notes of our meeting, but I neglected to ask him if it would be ok if I posted my notes on the blog. I will contact him Monday to ask permission and if he grants it I will post about our meeting Monday.