By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY ó Utah House members shot down Rep. Stephen Sandstrom 's attempt to run a bill that would impose sanctions on employers who fail to use E-Verify to determine potential workers' immigration status.

The Republican-controlled House voted 37-36 against his motion to open a bill file Wednesday. The Orem Republican failed to get the bill filed by last Friday's deadline, which required him to bring the request to the 75-member House.

Push back came from both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Bill Wright, R-Holden, who championed last year's controversial HB116, which includes E-Verify provisions, said the Legislature has already dealt with illegal immigration.

"I would suggest we're at a really good point right now," he said.

Wright said the state has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend its enforcement-only illegal immigration law.

"E-Verify is not a good pathway where we want to go," he said. "It's much better for us as a state to just let this issue go."
Sandstrom countered with "if E-Verify is such a bad thing, why did we have it in HB116?"

E-Verify is a Internet-based system that allows an employer to determine whether an job applicant is eligiblle to work in the U.S. It is run through the Department of Homeland Security.

Under federal law, use of E-Verify is voluntary, except for employers with federal contracts.

In the absence of an enforcement mechanism in state law, some local governments have enacted ordinances that requires businesses to check the legal status of workers using the federal E-Verify system or face the loss of their business licenses.

Sandstrom argued that lawmakers must revisit E-Verify to bring Utah in line with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that fining businesses that don't comply is unconstitutional. His bill would have imposed business license suspensions for noncompliance.

"This is not a penalty on undocumented people. It is a penalty on businesses," said Sandstrom, adding the agriculture industry would be exempt because it "has a difficult time E-verifying people who show up at 5 a.m. to pick fruit."

Sandstrom also said that Gov. Gary Herbert wants a discussion on his bill this session.

E-Verify would not be tied up in the courts like other illegal immigration laws, Sandstrom said. "There cannot be a court challenge on to this," he said. "The Supreme Court has spoken."

Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, also opposed opening the bill file.

E-Verify, he said, is the job of the federal government and the state should not burden businesses and residents with it.

Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, said if this was such an important issue, Sandstrom should have filed the bill before last week's deadline. Nothing has changed between then and now to make it more critical, he said.

"I would suggest we have our plates full now and we donít need another bill," he said.