Last week, the measure received a practical airing from the editorial board of the Casper Star-Tribune:
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A bill that sought to make it a felony to harbor or transport illegal immigrants in Wyoming died Tuesday when it failed to receive the required two-thirds vote for introduction in the House of Representatives.
Rep. Pete Illoway, R-Cheyenne, had sponsored the measure. Although Hispanic groups have criticized similar legislation in other states, he said the bill wasn't aimed at any particular ethnic group here.
"There's been a lot of comment on this particular proposal, and I felt that if the federal government won't do it, then the states at least need to take a look at what's termed illegal immigration," Illoway said.
Illoway's legislation was modeled after an Oklahoma law that took effect late last year.linkage
The most obvious objection to the bill is that it isn't necessary. Wyoming doesn't have a lot of illegal immigrants. The few places that do, most notably Teton County, depend on them to do jobs left unfilled by Wyoming residents. Even if illegal immigrants start arriving from Oklahoma and other states, Wyoming's labor shortage ensures they won't supplant local workers.
One of the risks inherent in HB 62 is creation of a climate of fear and harassment of legal immigrants, merely because of their ethnic origin. That's not what America is about.
That doesn't mean Wyoming should condone illegal immigration. Americans are rightfully upset that illegal immigrants can obtain government services and benefits to which they are not entitled.
Somehow, America needs to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, and move toward a time when all immigrants are legal residents.
The task, however, is both large and perplexing. Imagine the government apparatus necessary to ship out 12 million illegals -- 20 times the population of Wyoming. It's simply not going to happen.
Instead of focusing solely on punishment, a more practical option is to encourage people here illegally to identify themselves and earn the right to stay. Save deportation for those who fail to report their status or who commit other crimes.
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