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The Director’s Chair: We are energized by our recent successes

09 July 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

KarenBOR11We are energized by our recent successes. The federal district court just released its decision in La Raza v. Utah blocking parts of HB 497, Utah’s Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act and severely restricting other aspects of it. Great news! Our 2011 lawsuit initially resulted in the court’s granting of a restraining order which stopped the law from going into effect for the past three years pending this ruling.

In the several years leading up to the 2011 legislative session, there was a wave against immigrants that spilled over into fevered, frequently racist and nativist denunciations by many, including some in law enforcement and the legislature. We worked alongside coalition organizations and faith leaders to push back against many proposed bills and to call for a more reasoned and informed response to immigration issues. When HB 497 was passed, we knew it had to be challenged and are grateful for the courageous leadership of our plaintiffs who joined in the lawsuit. The 2011 restraining order provided the opportunity for a range of Utahns including the Utah Compact and the Enriching Utah Coalition to work to change the tenor of the public discourse. We will continue to work for Comprehensive Immigration Reform while remaining vigilant in Utah to ensure that law enforcement respects the constitutional lines drawn by the court. 

It has also been exciting to be in the midst of the fight for marriage equality in Utah. We were thrilled with federal district judge Kimball’s ruling in our Evans v. Utah case agreeing that marriages between same sex couples must be recognized by the state. In addition, it was especially meaningful to receive the news just days after plaintiff Tony Milner shared the challenges to being a dad and husband posed by Utah’s actions at our Bill of Rights Breakfast.

 In these times of such destructive polarization across our country, we celebrate the ways in which our legislators and community partners bridged divides to bring about enhanced rights for voters and articulated standards for 4th amendment protections in such areas as drones and SWAT teams. Similarly, we continue to work across the political spectrum and with a variety of community leaders to move our criminal justice system towards reform.

 All the work we do - whether through litigation, lobbying or education- is profoundly enhanced and made sustainable by engaging with others. We are grateful for the challenges you give us to listen more deeply, to seek others’ insights, and to brainstorm about how we might work more productively together. We seek your help in giving voice to the vulnerable members in our community who face barriers to asserting their rights and we appreciate your assistance in connecting us to new partners and diverse allies. Thank you for working with us for a more just and equitable Utah. 

Karen McCreary, Executive Director

This article was first published in the Liberty Reporter: 2014 Summer Newsletter >>