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Utah immigration law to get airing in court Friday

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 7:06 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — With the Supreme Court's decision on Arizona's controversial immigration law as a guide, attorneys representing the federal government and civil rights organizations will ask a federal judge on Friday to block Utah's immigration enforcement law.

HB497, passed by the Utah Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in 2011, requires police to verify the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors as well as those booked into jail on class B and class C misdemeanors. It also says officers may attempt to verify the status of someone detained for class B and class C misdemeanors.

Federal government and plaintiffs attorneys have argued that Utah's law is unconstitutional and usurps federal authority and they will seek a preliminary injunction to stop its implementation.

Attorneys representing the state of Utah, however, have maintained that the law passes constitutional muster and should be allowed to take effect because it reflects the state's attempt to "undertake its supporting role in the fight against illegal immigration with the parameters set by Congress."

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups heard oral arguments on a motion for preliminary injunction in February 2012 but held off ruling until the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the Arizona case.

The Utah law has been enjoined under a temporary injunction.

The civil rights coalition, in a statement released Thursday, said it will argue that the court should continue to block the law pending a final ruling on its constitutionality.

The Department of Justice will also will present arguments.

Civil rights attorneys representing Utah Coalition of La Raza filed a lawsuit against the state of Utah in May 2011 claiming HB497 is unconstitutional and invites racial profiling.

The DOJ intervened in the lawsuit in November 2011. It has maintained that enforcing HB497 would inflict "irreparable injury on the United States' ability to manage foreign policy."

The state has previously argued that Utah's law differs from Arizona's law.

The Supreme Court struck down three of four provisions of the Arizona law ruling they were pre-empted by federal law. The provisions would have made it a crime for an illegal immigrant to search for a job (or to hold one), allowed state police to arrest any person for suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, and required legal immigrants to carry registration documents at all times.

However, the court upheld a provision that allows Arizona state police to investigate the immigration status of an individual stopped, detained or arrested if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is in the country illegally.

E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com

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