NILC Files Lawsuit Challenging Utah Law

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; [email protected]
Rachel Myers, ACLU national, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; [email protected]
Karen McCreary, ACLU of Utah, (801) 521-9862; [email protected]

Law Would Turn Utah into Police State and Invite Racial Profiling, Groups Say

SALT LAKE CITY — The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Utah, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olsen filed a class action lawsuit today charging that Utah’s recently passed law, HB 497, like Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, authorizes police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops, invites racial profiling of Latinos and others who appear “foreign” to an officer, and interferes with federal law.

“By turning law enforcement officers into immigration agents and requiring them to demand papers demonstrating immigration status, HB 497 promotes racial profiling and ensures that immigrant communities will no longer feel safe going to the authorities as victims of or witnesses to crime,” said Linton Joaquin, general counsel of the National Immigration Law Center.  “This undermines the public safety of everyone.”

The lawsuit charges that the Utah law is unconstitutional in that it unlawfully interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution; authorizes and requires unreasonable seizures and arrests in violation of the Fourth Amendment; restricts the constitutional right to travel freely throughout the United States; violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by unlawfully discriminating against certain lawful immigrants as well as people in Utah without approved identify documents; and violates the Utah state constitutional guarantee of uniform operation of the laws.

“America is not a ‘show me your papers’ country.  No one should be subject to investigation, detention and arrest without any suspicion of criminal activity,” said Cecillia Wang, managing attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.  “Utah’s law violates the Constitution and we are confident that we will prevent it from taking effect.”

“This law has been wildly misrepresented as a kinder, gentler version of Arizona’s discriminating law,” said Karen McCreary, executive director of the ACLU of Utah.  “But the truth is, this ill-conceived law is just as harsh, turning Utah into a police state where everyone is required to carry their ‘papers’ to prove they are lawfully present.”

Several prominent law enforcement officials, including Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, oppose the law because it undermines trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities.  Burbank and other officers have expressed concerns that the law diverts limited resources away from law enforcement’s primary responsibility to provide protection and promote public safety in the community.

The lawsuit was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah on behalf of civil rights, labor, social justice, and business organizations, including Utah Coalition of La Raza, Service Employees International Union, Latin American Chamber of Commerce, Workers’ United Rocky Mountain Joint Board, Centro Civico Mexicano, Coalition of Utah Progressives, individually named plaintiffs who would be subject to harassment or arrest under the law, and a class of similarly situated people.

Attorneys on the case are:

National Immigration Law Center:
Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney

ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project:
Wang, Omar C. Jadwat, Andre Segura, Katherine Desormeau

ACLU Racial Justice Program:
Elora Mukherjee

ACLU of Utah:
Darcy Goddard, Esperanza Granados

Munger, Tollles & Olson LLP:
Bradley S. Phillips

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Listen to a recording of the telephonic news conference held to announce the lawsuit.

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