The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Oct 17, 2009 17:02:01 EDT
SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of disabled military veterans are being asked to prove their U.S. citizenship to qualify for a property-tax break in Salt Lake County, a side effect of a new stricter state immigration law that is generating criticism. According to the county, disabled veterans aren’t exempt from the law passed earlier this year by the Utah Legislature that requires governments to verify that those receiving a “public benefit” are living in the country legally. The treasurer’s office has sent notices to more than 3,500 wounded or ill veterans requiring them to attest to their citizenship or provide paperwork proving their legal status to qualify for the tax break. Terry Schow, executive director of the Utah Department of Veteran Affairs, said he knows of no other Utah counties taking such an approach to the new law. “These guys have gone through enough in their lives,” Schow told the Salt Lake Tribune. “Don’t place an extra burden on disabled veterans by requiring them to jump through these hoops.” But County Treasurer Larry Richardson argues he simply followed the law. The district attorney’s office advised him that property-tax relief — even for disabled vets — is a public benefit. “If there is something I’m supposed to do to comply with the law, I’m going to do it,” he said. “That is what I call integrity.” Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, calls it a gross misinterpretation of the law, which he co-sponsored. The intent, he says, was to ensure that undocumented immigrants aren’t accessing public benefits such as food stamps, not to pile paperwork on veterans.