SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In the latest sign that the anti-immigrant sentiment has faded in conservative Utah, state officials agreed Tuesday to scrap three key provisions in its controversial 2011 immigration law and limit another in a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The legislation was passed amid a wave of immigration crackdowns around the country and mirrored Arizona's well-known measure. Utah officials, however, said their law didn't go as far as Arizona's and said concerns about racial profiling were unjustified.
The deal, announced Tuesday by the ACLU and state attorney general's office, means both sides agreed to accept the stipulations of a judge's June split ruling on the law.
Immigrant advocates cheered the settlement as a victory, calling it a fair compromise.
"The storm has passed," said Tony Yapias, immigration reform advocate and director of Proyecto Latino de Utah. "The last couple of years in the state Legislature, we didn't see any anti-immigration bills like we saw the decade prior to that. I think the Legislature has kind of come to their senses that this is a federal issue."
The Utah Attorney General's Office didn't provide any comment about the agreement or make officials available for interviews Tuesday.
After the June ruling, the office issued a statement saying the decision "affirms that there is a role for state action related to the area of immigration enforcement."
State officials have said Utah doesn't want to go door to door looking for immigrants who are in the country illegally. Rather, it is seeking an additional tool to find those who are breaking the law.
Fueled by rapid growth from 1990 until the Great Recession hit in 2007, Latinos account for one in eight Utah residents and are the largest ethnic minority group in the state, said Pam Perlich, senior research economist with the bureau of economic and business at the University to Utah.
Utah's population of people who are in the U.S. illegally has held steady at 95,000 to 100,000 since 2005, the Pew Research Center estimates. That's less than major immigrant magnet states like Florida and California, but it accounts for 3.6 percent of Utah's population — slightly above the national average.
The Washington-based think tank Migration Policy Institute estimates 88,000 immigrants live in Utah without legal permission. More than half of them could be covered by Obama's executive actions announced last week that shield some from deportation, the group said.
Among the provisions of Utah's law that will be permanently blocked under the agreement:
— Allowing warrantless arrests based solely on suspicion of immigration status.
— Making it a state crime to harbor a person in the country illegally.
— A measure banning local entities from putting restrictions on police investigating certain immigration offenses.
The state agreed to limit how officers can implement a key provision of the law that was allowed to stand.
The provision lets police work with federal authorities to check the immigration status of people arrested for felonies or certain misdemeanors. This part of the law also gives authorities the discretion to check the citizenship of those stopped for traffic infractions and other lesser offenses.
One of the limitations is that officers cannot hold a person longer than normal just to wait for federal officials to verify their immigration status. That means if a person is stopped for a traffic offense that doesn't require booking, he or she cannot be detained solely because of questions about immigration status.
Another restriction is that officers are prohibited from trying to verify a person's immigration status unless they encounter the person in a legal stop, detention or arrest. Officers aren't required to see any specific type of documentation, but they may ask for a driver's license from Utah or another state, a tribal enrollment card or any ID document that includes a photo and biometric identifier such as a fingerprint.
The agreement clarifies that people are not required to carry any immigration documentation.
The parameters are based on detailed guidance issued in 2012 by the Utah attorney general's office.
In his June ruling, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups said so long as officers follow the guidelines for implementation, the rule doesn't violate anyone's constitutional rights.
Once the judge approves the agreement, the case will be closed.
"The settlement reflects that the state of Utah has decided to cut its losses and has realized that racial profiling and stopping, arresting and detaining people based on immigration status is illegal," said Jennifer Chang Newell, senior staff attorney at the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights project.