National/World

Court hearing planned for Utah's immigration law

Friday, February 17, 2012
Action News is taking a look at the candidates and their stances on immigration.

Action News is taking a look at the candidates and their stances on immigration.

Eight months after Utah's immigration enforcement law was put on hold by a federal judge, attorneys on both sides will have an opportunity on Friday to argue the constitutionality of the measure.

The law created by House Bill 497 would have allowed police to check the citizenship of anybody they arrest. It was initially blocked last May by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, 14 hours after it went into effect. At the time, Waddoups pointed at similarities to a contentious Arizona law that is bound for the U.S. Supreme Court and said there was sufficient evidence that at least some parts of the Utah law would be found unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center sued a week before the law went into effect to stop the implementation of House Bill 497, saying it could lead to racial profiling. The U.S. Justice Department joined the lawsuit in November, claiming the measure usurped federal authority.

Lawyers for the Utah attorney general's office have maintained the law is constitutional because it doesn't allow police to check the citizenship of everyone they encounter. They argue lawmakers worked to avoid the constitutional pitfalls of the Arizona law and passed a significantly different bill.

The Utah law, signed in March by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, would require police to check the citizenship status of anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony or class-A misdemeanor, while giving officers discretion to check the citizenship of those stopped for traffic infractions and other lesser offences. Class A misdemeanors include theft, negligent homicide and criminal mischief, while felonies range from aggravated burglary to rape and murder.

Herbert has maintained the law will eventually be found constitutional.

Utah lawmakers passed a package of immigration bills last year, including HB 497 and another bill that will allow illegal immigrants to live and work in the state if they haven't committed other crimes, have steady employment and pay taxes. That law takes effect in 2013 and the state is working with federal officials in an attempt to secure a waiver.

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