That process was shrouded in secrecy and deception. The Chamber worked to keep their role in the process out of the public's eye and portray it "as something that came from the broader community, not from the Chamber."
You can read Mr. Riggs' comments on a transcript of the conference call available at:
The audio of the call is available at:
Mr. Riggs made some rather revealing comments in this conference call.
For instance, he characterizes the Chamber's role in pushing HB116 as an insider political operation:
"So we then – the chamber, we sort of fleshed out our Guest Worker ideas that we had proposed earlier and quietly started to work on legislation even as early as last summer and trying to get our friends on board as an alternative to what Sandstrom was pushing publicly. That sort of insider, you know, politics that we play pretty well here in Utah." (p.3)
He also tells us that the Utah Compact idea began with the Chamber of Commerce:
"Yeah, that was – that was the first impulse. But what happened is – it was very interesting and that was we talked quite extensively here and decided that, you know, a really great side benefit, if not the sole benefit, for something like this would be to at least try to change the tone and tenor of the discussion. Try to get people to talk about other pragmatic solutions rather than just one certain way of doing.
And that’s when the idea of the Utah Compact came together. That really originated with us here at the Chamber." (p.3-4)
On page 4 of the transcript this exchange takes place in which Riggs tells us that the Chamber worked to keep their role in the operation secret:
"MS. JACOBY: (Inaudible.) Here, let me stop you and ask you a question, because in a lot of states, you know, business folks say, well, we’re negotiating behind the scenes, we don’t want to go public because we think that will hurt our negotiations, it will hurt our stats – you know, we work with a lot of states and they say better that we don’t come out publicly. Did you all have qualms and decisions and discussions about that? Do we go public or stay behind the scenes? Will it hurt our negotiating power? Did that come into this compact?
MR. RIGGS: Yeah, we did. Yeah, in fact, what we did is the Compact, we tried to make sure that it was characterized as something that came from the broader community, not from the Chamber.
MS. JACOBY: Got it, yeah.
MR. RIGGS: So, if you look in – (inaudible) – if you look online and look anywhere where the genesis of this came from, you’re not going to Chamber’s fingerprints on it. And so we just ran the two parallel tracks – we ran – we kept pushing on legislation but also very, very strongly pushed the Compact forward."
The Chamber apparently realized that the HB116 would probably lose in court:
"Two problems with that obviously. First of all, it’s federal government under the U.S. Constitution has preeminent authority over immigration law so you could – so this bill, or all these bills would be subject to lawsuit fairly readily and probably lose." (p.7)
Mr. Riggs also makes it clear that the Chamber knew that HB116 and its need for a federal government waiver was not really feasible:
"So there’s the preemption issue that we’re worried about, and so that’s why we think we need to get waivers. But the wrinkle in that is there’s no – there’s nothing that we can find in current law that allows Homeland Security, for example, to give waivers to this kind of thing. They can give waivers for visa, quotas in some smaller populations of workers but to allow a state to implement a whole program I don’t think is actually even allowed under current statutes. So we’d have to get our congressional delegation to push for congressional action. That’s probably what would happen if we weren’t successful in getting waivers." (p.7)
Mr. Riggs acknowledges that HB116 is essentially a message bill - on steroids, no less:
"Yeah, exactly. And so you know, it – but you’re right, it is – it really is kind of a message built on steroids, trying to just get the federal government to stand up and take notice and really do something, even if – you know, we don’t have any illusions that we’re going to get some waiver the next couple of years – I mean, I don’t think so – but we want to at least get the buzz going..." (p.8)
There are other remarkable comments in the transcript.