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VICTORY! Court Limits Enforcement of “Show Me Your Papers” Law

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

La Raza v. Utah - On June 18, a federal district court issued a decision blocking several components of Utah’s HB 497, an Arizona-style anti-immigrant 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 potentially deportable immigrants and that would have criminalized everyday activities, such as 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 also made clear that the law does not require Utahns to carry identification with them at all times.

 Archie Archuleta of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said, “The 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.”

 Karen McCreary, executive director of the ACLU of Utah, said, “Since our lawsuit halted HB 497 from going into effect three years ago, there has been growing acknowledgement among Utahns that state laws such as HB 497 and Arizona’s law 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 HB 497 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.”

“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  ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in 2013.

 The 2011 lawsuit filed by the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, the ACLU of Utah, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the law firm of Munger, Tolles, & Olsen, 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 4th Amendment, among other unconstitutional challenges.

 Information about this case can be found at www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/utah-coalition-la-raza-v-herbert