Attorneys scramble to block Utah immigration law

SALT LAKE CITY — Civil rights attorneys were scrambling today to delay the implementation Tuesday of a Utah law that allows police to check the citizenship status of anyone they arrest.

At the same time, a federal judge scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon for a requested injunction against the law.

Because of the lawsuit against House Bill 497, the state should not allow it to become law, said Karen McCreary, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

Attorneys from the ACLU of Utah were meeting with representatives of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, hoping to at least postpone the law until U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups can rule on the injunction request.

The lawsuit was filed last Tuesday by the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center, and the injunction was requested Friday.

“It would be inadvisable for the state to implement the law before the federal judge has a chance to weigh in,” McCreary said.

The groups argue that the enforcement law is very similar to an Arizona law that is also currently before the courts.

The Utah law, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March, requires people to prove their citizenship if they’re arrested for serious crimes — ranging from certain drug offenses to murder — while giving police discretion to check citizenship on traffic infractions and other lesser offenses.

If the law is delayed, it is not because the state thinks the lawsuit will be successful, said Shurtleff’s spokesman Paul Murphy.

“We don’t have any concerns about it going into effect, but obviously the ACLU does,” Murphy said.


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