SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General's Office is asking a federal judge to allow the state's new illegal immigration enforcement law to take effect.
"HB497 reflects Utah's effort to enable local law enforcement to communicate and cooperate with federal officials and respond to that problem in a reasonable, unobtrusive manner," state lawyers wrote in court documents this week.
"This court should defer to the wishes of the state and its legislators and allow the state to govern and address this issue as it sees fit."
Utah's request to enforce the law came in a memorandum in federal court opposing a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by several Latino individuals and groups who are suing the state over the bill.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups put a temporary hold on the law in May and will consider making it permanent while the case runs it course. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2.
HB497 requires police to verify the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors and 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.
The ACLU of Utah and the National Immigration Law Center, which represent the plaintiffs, contend the law is unconstitutional and will turn Utah into a "show-me-your-papers" state.
State attorneys argue in the memorandum that those organizations misunderstand the law.
"HB497 does not require detention or arrest of illegal aliens. Nor does HB497 make it illegal to not carry identification documents," they wrote.
ACLU and National Immigration Law Center attorneys also argue that Latinos will be subject to racial profiling and unwarranted detention while police check their immigration status.
"Plaintiffs' alleged harm is either speculative or nonexistent (because it is based on an improper reading of the statute) or both. For example, their concerns over prolonged detentions are based on their misreading the statute, which neither expresses nor implies prolonged detentions to verify status," state attorneys wrote.
Irreparable harm are among the factors Waddoups will consider before ruling on the plaintiff's preliminary injunction request.
State attorneys asked the judge to be mindful of the high burden of proof the plaintiffs face when making a constitutional challenge to override the "will of the people of this state."
Utah lawmakers overwhelming approved HB497, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, in March as part of a package of illegal immigration bills.
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