Rep. Stephen Sandstrom said his newly introduced Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act has “absolute widespread support.” It’s a Lie


Rep. Stephen Sandstrom said his newly introduced Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act has “absolute widespread support.”

But only opponents showed up at his Friday news conference at the State Capitol. A crowd of about 70 people booed and protested as Sandstrom detailed sections of his draft bill.

John Osburn expressed his discontent by standing behind Sandstrom wearing a gag and giving the thumbs down.

Before long, protesters surrounded the podium where Sandstrom stood alone, holding signs sporting slogans such as “Who would Jesus deport?” and “Pioneers Crossed the Border.” A sign written in Spanish read, “NAFTA – Money crosses borders but people can’t?”

“That’s one great thing about our country you have the right to let your voice be heard,” Sandstrom said of those who showed up to speak against his proposal. “I applaud their efforts but I think they are wrong.”

Sandstrom insists that the absence of supporters wasn’t because people aren’t backing his bill. It was because he hadn’t invited them.

“I didn’t want it to turn into a big rally at this point,” he said.

But Sandstrom learned his lesson Friday after protestors turned his own media event against him, sometimes drowning out his comments with jeers. He says he has since received calls from “dozens” of people who said they would have stood beside him.

“In my wildest dreams,” Sandstorm conceded, “I didn’t think what happened was going to happen.”

So the lawmaker plans to stage a second media event next week — this time with plenty of backers standing behind him.

During the Friday news conference, the crowd aggressively expressed its opposition, particularly during a question-and-answer session for the news media. It concluded with sustained chants of “Shame on Sandstrom.”

The Orem lawmaker said he had made changes to the bill after meeting with various groups and receiving dozens of e-mails from Latinos who are here legally or are U.S. citizens. One switch was leaving out a prohibition on day laborers congregating at job-pickup locales. Some of those supporters will testify for the bill when it is presented to an interim committee next week, Sandstrom added.

Boos followed when Sandstrom was asked about the bill’s cost and he responded that the price would be “worth the outcome.”

Tyler Bushman and his friends made two large cardboard signs hoping to draw attention to how “messed up this law is.”

“There is probably a lot of support for the bill here in Utah because of the right wing demographics,” Bushman said. “But I think there a lot of people who are against it.“

Marisela Garza of Salt Lake City said it was disconcerting to see Arizona-style laws spreading to other states.

“It’s also upsetting because it is xenophobic. He is trying to say that it is not about race but all evidence shows the contrary,” Garza said. “It’s causing a lot of fear and tension in the community.”

Ellen Monahan has seen that fear first hand. A resident in West Ogden, she said a lot of her neighbors are Latinos, documented and undocumented. “They are terrorized,” Monahan said adding how one of her neighbors won’t go out of her house because she is afraid she is on ‘the list’ allegedly compiled by rogue Division of Workforce Services employees.

“It’s divisive and is ruining people’s lives. These are my neighbors,”she said. “Our side doesn’t get heard a lot. It’s good that we came out today.”

Cori Redstone said people are angry.

Redstone, the founder of Immigration Utah, an organization that formed in opposition to SB81 (a current Utah immigration law), called the bill “racist.”

“This,” he charged, “is terrorizing the Latino community.”

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