SALT LAKE CITY — A state Republican delegate behind the effort to repeal Utah's illegal immigration reform bill called drafters of the legislation "traitors" Wednesday.
At the same news conference, Brandon Beckham basically demanded the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature repeal HB116 by Sept. 30. The bill would establish a guest worker program for undocumented immigrants in 2013.
"Those who drafted this bill are traitors to Utah and they will be held accountable by voters in 2012," he said with Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, and Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, and others standing behind him in the Capitol rotunda. Both lawmakers favor a repeal.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who played an instrumental role in crafting and passing the bill, had one question after hearing he'd been called a traitor: "Does that include the people who lobbied for it?"
Bramble hinted afterward he was referring to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which worked behind the scenes for passage of HB116 and has publicly expressed support for it since.
HB116 sponsor, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, called Beckham's comment "over the top" and that "it shouldn't be dignified" with a response. Both Urquhart and Herrod distanced themselves from Beckham's name calling, saying they disagree that their legislative colleagues are traitors.
"I think they're trying to find solutions," Urquhart said.
But Beckham said Bramble, Reid and Gov. Gary Herbert are "not leaders on this issue. We must look to others who will do what is right."
The package of bills lawmakers passed this year as a "Utah solution" to illegal immigration has drawn much criticism among far-right Republicans. GOP delegates in Washington, Utah and Salt Lake counties passed resolutions to repeal HB116. Delegates at the state Republican convention voted to "repeal and replace" the measure.
"I can't even imagine what it would be," Reid said. "What does repeal and replace mean?"
At Wednesday's news conference, repeal backers said they have a proposal and Herrod has opened a bill file for new legislation. But they provided few specifics, mostly offering ideas such as conducting an economic study to determine whether Utah needs guest workers and requiring English language proficiency.
Reid said there will be discussions about HB116 between now and the 2012 Legislature. Senate Republicans, he said, intend to survey delegates, registered Republicans and the general public "to get their feelings about the issue."
As for a repeal by Sept. 30, Reid said, "That's not going to happen."