Utah District Court Upholds Key Enforcement Provisions in HB 497


June 18, 2014

Today, the Utah Federal District Court upheld key provisions of Utah’s HB 497, a bill partially modeled on Arizona SB 1070. IRLI filed multiple briefs in this case and IRLI Senior Counsel Mike Hethmon participated in oral argument in defending the statute.

The court upheld the key provision that state and local officers must verify immigration status during a lawful stop, detention, and arrest if the officers have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is an unlawfully present alien. Following United States v. Arizona, the court explained that this section was not preempted and that it requires verification of status only in certain circumstances: when a person is arrested for a felony, a Class A misdemeanor, or when someone is arrested and booked into jail for a Class B or Class C misdemanor. This ruling ensures that Utah officers will be able to promptly notify ICE when unlawful aliens are arrested or detained in Utah. The court also upheld the statute’s authorization for transfer of aliens from state facilities to federal facilities, ensuring that criminal aliens can be promptly transferred to federal detention facilities, rather than remaining in state facilities and awaiting an ICE agent to come to the state facility.

The court also upheld the law’s anti-sanctuary provision. Specifically, that provision prohibits local governments from enacting an ordinance, regulation, or policy that limits the assistince to the federal government in the enforcement of any federal law or regulation governing immigraiton. Given the recent increase in jurisdictions that have been seeking to prohibit officers from assisting in immigraiton enforcement and detentions, this decision reasserts that states can prevent these policies. Indeed, Salt Lake City currently has a sanctuary policy that may be overturned given this opinion. SeeAndrew Adams, Congressman Wants to Penalize Salt Lake City over Immigration Enforcement, Desert News, May 11, 2011.

Provisions found preempted included a prohibition on bringing illegal aliens into Utah and harboring illegal aliens in Utah for financial gain, permitting warrantless of arrests of aliens in certain circumstances, and a prohibition on local regulations which would prohibit the enforcement by local officials of federal registration laws. It is unclear whether Utah will appeal these holdings or whether the plaintiffs will appeal. However, this opinion again reinforces that state and local officers do have a substantial role in assisting in the enforcement of immigraiton laws and that states have the ability to ensure that state and local officers are not prevented from doing so. The state law is attached here.

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