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Immigration bill comes into effect

Sun Advocate writer

On July 1, 2009, senate bill 81 will come into effect across the state of Utah. The bill which was passed by the state legislature in 2008, requires county sheriffs and other law enforcement to "make a reasonable effort to determine the citizenship status of a person confined to a county jail," as worded in SB 81.

However, local law enforcement has had some difficulty determining not only the bill's interpretation, but with also it's actual enforcement.

"If I were to walk up to a person on the street and ask them to prove their citizenship, they couldn't do it," said Wellington police chief Lee Barry, "I personally have a problem with a bill like this."

The new law has seen controversy with local law enforcement agencies all over Utah, not only because of it's logistical problem with enforcement, but also it's lack of funding to train local officers in how to deal with illegals.

It can cost a small department more than just money to cross train it's officers because while it is expensive to send officers off to training, it's probably more expensive to have them gone.

Many local police departments such as East Carbon, Helper and Wellington have between four and six officers total, and if only one is gone for a week, it can impact the entire town. "Can you imagine what it would be like in Salt Lake if 40 percent of their officers were gone for a week?" said Barry.

Despite the bill's looming effective date, none of the departments contacted for this story were aware of any communication between them and the state, which leaves them with many questions and few answers as to the bill's limits and requirements. "I'm doing nothing until I receive information," said Price police chief Aleck Shilaos.

The actual illegal immigrant problem in Carbon County, is as with the bill itself, something that local law enforcement finds to be unclear.

Local police chiefs interviewed did not have much of an opinion on the subject because hard information is lacking.

"I know we have them," said Shilaos. "There's only 12 million in the country."

Agreement (between officers) is, however, similar on the fact that illegal immigrants are not really a pressing issue locally because they are not numerous and the ones who are in the Carbon County area tend only to commit crimes within their own communities, according to Shilaos.

Overall the situation with the bill is a,waiting more communication between the state and law enforcement.

But as the situation now stands, many law enforcement agencies will probably only take action once they get additional funding for the additional responsibility.

"They'remandating, but not paying," said Barry.

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