HB 237 is a bad idea

By Jeffrey Jenkins

The recent debate between incumbent Republican Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Democratic challenger Jean Hill was a fierce display of partisan bickering. The issues varied from the education system to the economy with neither candidate budging.

However, both agreed that the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act that went into practice in July is unwarranted. The regulation of immigration for the most part has been a federal responsibility, leaving local law enforcement responsible for policing criminal activities among citizens and undocumented individuals.

House Bill 237 authorizes Utah local law enforcement to not only continue to curtail criminal action among all persons in their various jurisdictions, but also “function as a federal immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.” The bill poses significant problems for local law enforcement and the safety of citizens in Utah.

On Aug. 15, the Utah Foundation released crime statistics research for the state. The statistics show that Utah has been well below the national average crime rate since 2006 with the exception of forcible rape. The report makes clear that this reduction in crime was due in large part to an increase in per capita spending on law enforcement protection from 1991 to 2005.

With the passing of H.B. 237, local law enforcement is required to stretch its resources in order to complete a job that is not its responsibility. This will leave police with less time and resources.

H.B. 237 will also reduce the number of crimes reported from the large undocumented community. Undocumented residents will avoid local law enforcement because they are afraid of being deported than seeing justice brought to fruition

Shurtleff and Hill both see the bill as unnecessary and posing more risks than benefits. The bill threatens the safety of local citizens by reducing the attention of local law enforcement on criminal activities and leaves thousands of individuals open to be taken advantage of.

The responsibility of enforcing immigration needs to be returned to the hands of the federal government, freeing our local law enforcement officers to perform their jobs.

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Jeffrey Jenkins