Judge Blocks Utah’s Immigration Laws

A U.S. District Judge has issued a temporary injunction against the state's SB 1070 copycat law.

By Julianne Hing May 11, 2011

While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is ready to take the legal fight over SB 1070 to the Supreme Court, Utah’s fight is just getting started. Fifteen hours after Utah’s HB 497–which was modeled on SB 1070–went into effect, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary injunction against the law.

Judge Waddoups blocked the law from going into effect not on its merits but because it would have caused "irreparable harm" to the people of Utah while it went into effect.

Immigrant and civil rights groups filed their lawsuit against Utah last week, arguing that HB 497 was unconstitutional because it violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution, which says that the immigration policy may only be written and enforced at the federal level. HB 497 would have turned Utah police officers into immigration agents. It requires police officers to ask for one of four state-approved forms of identification during the course of a lawful stop for a felony or class A misdemeanor, and that people be held in police custody while police determined their immigration status. The law also empowered police to discredit, and investigate a person if they did not believe that the ID they’d been shown was legitimate.

Immigrant rights advocates said the law would rely on racial profiling of immigrants and those who are perceived to be immigrants.

"HB 497 puts the good police officers of Utah in an impossible situation, and asks them to determine a person’s immigration status, when that is not something that can be observed in the field," Cecilia Wang, managing attorney of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights’ Project, said when the lawsuit was filed last week. "[Officers] will be left to work on stereotypes that certain people may be unauthorized based on how they speak or the color of their skin."

"We are pleased the court has ordered that the law cannot take effect until the court has ample time to review the case in full," said Darcy Goddard, the legal director of the ACLU of Utah. "We anticipate proving to the court that this discriminatory law threatens the rights of all people in Utah."

"Like Arizona’s SB 1070, the Utah law violates the Constitution and is even worse in requiring all Utahns to carry their ‘papers’ at all times to prove they are lawfully present."

And Utah is ready to defend HB 497.

"Utah will have ample opportunity in court to demonstrate this bill is on solid footing. Until then, we will adhere to the court’s temporary restraining order," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement.

Even though in court Utah Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Jansen admitted that allowing the law to go into effect would cause "irreparable harm" to residents of Utah if it went into effect, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, he later told the paper, "I think it’s absolutely constitutional and we will defend it vigorously."

The parties will meet in court again on July 14.