ST. GEORGE – The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion on Arizona’s Immigration Law not only left further action to be taken by other tribunals concerning parts of the Arizona law, but it triggered process to resume in a pending case against Utah’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act.
Last week, Gov. Gary R. Herbert released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona:
“Today’s ruling acknowledges that the state has a role to play in identifying people within its borders who are here illegally,” Herbert said. “The Supreme Court has validated this portion of the Arizona law and by doing so has validated the core part of Utah’s (Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act*) passed in 2011,” Herbert said.
He continued: “The bill requires that an officer verify the immigration status of a person arrested for a felony or a class A misdemeanor who is unable to provide documents showing identity and cannot otherwise be identified. It also permits an officer to verify the status of persons booked for class B or C misdemeanors under certain circumstances.”
This is not a settled issue.
Last year, in response to parts of Utah’s new immigration law, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in November 2011 challenging the state’s authority in that law, as it did similarly in actions against Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina.
At the time of the November 2011 lawsuit against Utah, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said: “The federal government is the chief enforcer of immigration laws and while we appreciate cooperation from states, which remains important, it is clearly unconstitutional for a state to set its own immigration policy. We will continue to monitor and coordinate with our federal partners as we remain concerned about the potential impact of these state laws.”
Within a week, the federal government’s case against Utah was consolidated with another action pending before the District Court of Utah; specifically, Utah Coalition of La Raza v. Herbert, a class action suit brought by a coalition of immigrant rights groups and individual immigrants against the state in May 2011.
In February of this year, the District Court issued an order reserving ruling in the La Raza case pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. vs. Arizona. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in the Arizona case on June 25, the District Court has requested memoranda from the parties, including the state of Utah, on how the Supreme Court decision informs the pending action. Plaintiffs are required to file by July 20, defendants (among which is Utah) will respond by August 17, and oral arguments will then be scheduled.
The parties to the pending action are numerous and there are invested interests seeking to file amicus curiae (friends of the court) memoranda with the Court for consideration as well.
The Governor’s confidence in the state’s new immigration law has yet to be vindicated as the law remains under court scrutiny.
* H.B. 497 passed the House on March 4, 2011, with 59 yeas, 15 nays and 1 not voting. From Southern Utah, Reps. Last, Vickers, Noel, Clark and Ipson all voted yea; Rep. Watkins voted nay.
The bill passed the Senate on March 4, 2011, with 22 yeas, 5 nays and 2 not voting. From Southern Utah, Sens. Urquhart and Hinkins voted yea, and Sen. Stowell did not vote.
The bill was signed by the Governor on March 15, 2011.
Mori Kessler contributed to this story.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.