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Robles-Mero Beyond Repair
email this pageprint this pageemail usMark Alvarez - PVNN
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December 13, 2010

State Sen. Luz Robles and Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero recently revealed a working draft of the Utah Pilot Accountability Permit Program (called simply “Robles-Mero”). Robles and Mero claim respect for federal authority over immigration, the first principle of the Utah Compact. But, consider their words:

Immigration is a complex issue about which we are all somewhat misinformed and confused. What is not forgivable is the reckless approach of Robles and Mero after too little study.
Robles: “[This Utah program] is a better solution to a broken immigration policy and a more realistic solution as well.”

Mero: “The proposal is not immigration policy: That is not Utah’s prerogative.”

Robles: “Immigration is a federal issue, and we all recognize that … this is a ‘Utah solution.’”

Mero: “If you (an undocumented immigrant) carry a permit, you are welcome among us. If you don’t, you’re not.”

The inconsistency is forgivable. Immigration is a complex issue about which we are all somewhat misinformed and confused. What is not forgivable is the reckless approach of Robles and Mero after too little study.

Robles and Mero have tried to get federal approval for a state scheme. So far, no approval. No problem; the proposal instructs the governor to obtain necessary federal waivers, exemptions and authority.

Tough sledding there. The system allows for limited delegation of enforcement to the states. It does not allow for delegation on the benefits side.

Yet, Robles-Mero presumes to create state-level work permits, called “accountability permits,” as a wink and nod at the federal authority. Federal law prohibits immigrants from working in the United States without authorization. That is a plain conflict. A state permit would be a poison apple.

Robles-Mero establishes a state database to brand the immigrant and to record open defiance of federal law, both by the worker and by Utah. Robles and Mero tread fearlessly:

Robles: “Our bill will get implemented regardless of whether we get a waiver or not.”

Mero: “If they want to take us to court, then they take us to court.”

And who pays?

Their antipathy was directed not only at the federal government but also to undocumented immigrants, who would be subject to strict card-carrying requirements — in a free society, of course. Those who let their permits lapse would have three days to leave the state and would be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

The cruelty of Robles-Mero rivals that of other Arizona-style bills. Robles says, “If you (an undocumented immigrant) don’t have a type A or a type B card, your life will be very difficult in the state of Utah.” Mero criticizes Arizona-style proposals as an effort to “starve out the undocumented.” He apparently prefers to beat them out into the open with a get-branded-or-leave approach.

Robles characterizes Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s Arizona-style proposal as “catch and release.” Is “brand and release” better? A so-called friendlier approach is not so friendly.

Other worrisome details of Robles-Mero include restricted labor rights, added layers of state bureaucracy, forced fingerprinting and photographing of those caught without cards, vague definitions of terms, convoluted taxing schemes and plain, official second-class status for qualifying immigrants.

Robles-Mero is not only worrisome, it is unconstitutional.

Remember that professorial rule: “If you want to hand in poor-quality work, please keep it short.” Robles-Mero is a 21-page document needing major revision. That it took six months to develop indicates a task beyond the competence of the drafters. It should go into the trash.

Mark Alvarez is a Salt Lake City attorney and a member of the city Library Board. He co-hosts a Spanish-language radio show. He currently resides in Mexico City. Contact him at alvarez_mark2004(at)

Click HERE to read more articles by Mark Alvarez on

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