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Immigration reform: Glimpse of the future in Arizona and Utah?

The business community was instrumental in defeating an Arizona birthright-citizenship bill and passing a Utah guest-worker program, suggesting it could be a key force on immigration reform.

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Arizona State Sen. Steve Gallardo (D), who opposes the immigration bills before the Senate Thursday, leans on his desk as proponent of the bills state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) stands in the background. The bills, including one to deny birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, were defeated.

AP

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The opposite fortunes of two sets of immigration bills this week – one in Arizona and the other in Utah – suggest that the business community can play a potentially crucial role in shaping immigration legislation in states nationwide.

In Arizona, its opposition to five anti-illegal immigration bills, including a high-profile attempt to deny children of illegal immigrants birthright citizenship, played a pivotal role in turning several Republican state senators against the bills, which failed Thursday.

Meanwhile in Utah, business groups backed a suite of bills that included a measure to offer two-year work permits to undocumented immigrants under certain conditions and another to recruit guest workers from Mexico. The bills were signed into law Tuesday.

At a time when the Republican Party has taken an increasingly strident position against illegal immigration, the two votes – both in Republican-dominated states – suggest that the path to compromise on the issue might be through the business community, which often has strong ties to GOP lawmakers.

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