Civil Rights Coalition Victorious in Lawsuit Against Utah Anti-Immigrant Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Utah
June 18, 2014 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Utah
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Federal District Court Blocks Several Provisions of HB 497, Strictly Limits Enforcement of “Show Me Your Papers” Provision

June 18, 2014

CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal district court today blocked several components of Utah’s HB 497, an Arizona-style law passed in 2011 that threatened the basic civil rights of all Utahns.

In its order, the court blocked key provisions of the law that would have allowed police to arrest certain deportable immigrants, and that would have criminalized everyday activities, like driving an undocumented immigrant to the store. The order also severely limited implementation of several provisions of the law. The Court clarified that the provision authorizing police to demand “papers” of those they think may be in the country without authorization does not authorize police to stop or detain an individual simply to verify his or her immigration status.

“The Court’s message is loud and clear: state and local police may not stop, detain, or arrest someone solely for immigration purposes,” said Jennifer Chang-Newell of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in 2013.

The Court also made clear that the law does not require Utahns to carry identification with them at all times.

Karen McCreary, Executive Director of the ACLU of Utah said “Since our lawsuit halted HB 497 from going into effect 3 years ago, there has been growing acknowledgement among Utahns that state laws such as H.B.497 primarily cause division and strife within our community and that as a state we are better off working for longer term comprehensive solutions that protect our families and enhance our economy. Even the primary sponsor of HB 497 now has publicly acknowledged HB497 is not good public policy for our state. The Utah legislature should respond by repealing what remains of this law following Judge Waddoup’s ruling.”

“Today’s order establishes a bright line for Utah law enforcement, explaining to local police that if they prolong a traffic stop for even one minute to determine an individual’s immigration status, they risk running afoul of the U.S. Constitution,” said Karen Tumlin, the managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center who argued the case before the court in 2012 and again in 2013. “The decision makes efforts to ward off overzealous attempts to determine whether someone is American based on the way they look or whether they have an accent.”

In the 2011 filing, civil rights groups charged that HB 497 is unconstitutional because it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and authorizes and requires unreasonable seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment, among other unconstitutional challenges.

Archie Archuleta of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said “Today’s order reinforces a simple truth: No one should fear being charged with a misdemeanor or felony simply for driving her parent to the grocery store, or a friend to church. Although the fight for equality is not over, we are pleased to see that the court has prevented much of this law from harming countless Utahns.”

Attorneys in the case include: Leah Farrell of the ACLU of Utah; Cecillia Wang, Omar C. Jadwat, Andre Segura, Katherine Desormeau, and Jennifer Chang-Newell of the ACLU; Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Shiu-Ming Cheer, and Melissa S. Keaney of the National Immigration Law Center; Bradley S. Phillips of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release