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Utah Immigration Law Illegal, ACLU Says

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 04, 2011 12:11 PM

In March, Utah followed in the footsteps of Arizona, enacting a strict new immigration law that requires criminal suspects to prove U.S. citizenship or legal residency when arrested.

In response to the law, the ACLU, along with the National Immigration Law Center, has filed suit, arguing that the Utah immigration law violates the Supremacy Clause, prohibitions against unreasonable seizures, and equal protection.

Under the new law, it's mandatory that a person arrested for a felony or a Class A misdemeanor prove his citizenship by presenting a birth certificate or official immigration papers.

Officers have the discretion to verify residency of those arrested for Class B or C misdemeanors.

According to its official statement, the ACLU believes that the Utah immigration law invites racial profiling. A large portion of motor vehicle infractions are Class C misdemeanors, meaning that officers can request "papers" during a traffic stop.

Who are they most likely to ask? They say Latinos.

As with Arizona's S.B. 1070, the ACLU also believes that the law conflicts with federal immigration rules, and is therefore preempted by the Supremacy Clause.

The 9th Circuit recently agreed with the ACLU's contention regarding federal preemption. Even though that decision involved Arizona's law, the Utah immigration law grants law enforcement the same broad authority that the court found to violate the Supremacy Clause.

This, however, is not the end for the Utah immigration law. Utah resides in the 10th Circuit, so while the courts can consider the 9th Circuit's ruling, it is in no way binding.

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