Contracting company challenges Utah's immigration law

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 8:29 p.m. MDT

In this Feb. 17 file photo, Francisco Ayala protests HB497, Utah's immigration enforcement law, outside of the Frank E. Moss Courthouse in Salt Lake City. According to opponents, the Supreme Court's recent ruling on Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law "reinforces the conclusion Utah's HB497 is unconstitutional."

Kristin Murphy, File, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Immigration-related provisions of the state's construction license law are unconstitutional, a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court claims.

Three sections of the law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2011 violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and violate due process guarantees, the lawsuit states.

The complaint, filed by attorneys representing Universal Contracting, LLC, asks the federal court to "declare invalid and permanently enjoin the enforcement of the immigration-related portions" of SB35.

The intent of the 2011 legislation, sponsored by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, was to address companies reclassifying workers as owners, purportedly to skirt payroll taxes, workers compensation and unemployment insurance.

Universal, based in American Fork, has about 700 owners who work in a wide array of construction trades. The limited-liability company oversees business functions for members, such as payroll, taxes and other accounting matters. Moore said Universal has not had a single consumer complaint in its history.

But due process questions have also resulted from the bill and the lawsuit alleges that the legislation violates "the substantive and procedural due process guarantees of the United States Constitution."

The plaintiff's attorney Marty E. Moore said recent rulings regarding state-level immigration laws are instructive.

"If a state wants to get into immigration, it has to be extremely careful and artful in crafting legislation. This particular piece of legislation was not carefully and artfully crafted so it conflicts with federal law. You cannot do that," Moore said.

Since the passage of SB35, the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing has cited Universal six times, alleging individuals holding membership interest in Universal were not legally present in the United States, which violates 2011 state law.

Following an agency hearing on the allegations, Universal was fined $250 per citation and ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the state law.

Of greater concern is the possibility of the state revoking Universal's contractor license, effectively putting it out of business, Moore said.

Universal follows the requirements of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, Moore said. One provision of the federal law established sanctions for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Email: marjorie@desnews.com

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