A federal judge set oral arguments for Utah’s enforcement-only immigration law for Feb. 15 — almost two years after it was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert.
The law, HB497, was supposed to take effect in May 2011, but lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) successfully argued to U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups that it should be put on hold. The U.S. Department of Justice also sued Utah for enacting the law.
Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order for HB497 within hours of the law taking effect in May 2011.
After a series of filed briefs and oral arguments heard in February, Waddoups opted to hold off on ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Arizona’s enforcement-only law, SB1070.
The Supreme Court upheld in June key provisions of the Arizona statute — notably the right of local police to inquire about the legal status of those lawfully stopped, arrested or detained.
But Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has argued HB497 was less onerous than Arizona’s, and that based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Utah version should be able to take effect.
He said the case has dragged on long enough.
"We’ve had a Supreme Court decision, oral arguments, written briefs and we’ll be in the middle of a legislative session," Shurtleff said. "Yeah, I’m a little frustrated."
But Karen McCreary, executive director of the ACLU of Utah, said she wasn’t at all bothered by the court’s decision to schedule oral arguments.
HB497 requires police to check the legal status of those arrested for felonies and class A misdemeanors, but gives law enforcement the option to check status for class B or C misdemeanors.
The ACLU and the NILC argue the law will lead to racial profiling while Shurt-leff’s lawyers believe police already have the ability to check status upon those arrests.
On Monday — after both sides traded written briefs after the Supreme Court decision on SB1070 — Waddoups set the oral arguments for Feb. 15.
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