Utah agrees to drop parts of disputed 2011 immigration law

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 26, 2014 5:28 AM

(Reuters) - Utah has agreed to roll back key provisions of a 2011 state law allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being undocumented, a civil liberties group said on Tuesday.

As part of a deal settling a legal challenge to the law, the state agreed police will not be allowed to detain or stop a person merely to check immigration status or to transport him or her to federal officials based on officers' suspicions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement.

"Utah's decision to settle this case sends a clear message to states and cities across the country that they have no business stopping or detaining people just because of suspicions about their immigration status," said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU, which was a party to the agreement

The ACLU argued in a 2011 lawsuit that the law illegally interfered with federal authority over immigration matters and authorized unreasonable seizures and arrests.

The agreement, which was outlined in a federal court filing on Tuesday and requires judicial approval, follows a June ruling by U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups that the state cannot detain someone based just on an officer's suspicions or a racial profile.

It can verify the legal status of arrested persons, he ruled.

Waddoups also tossed out a part of the law making it a crime to harbor an illegal immigrant and a provision requiring local police to investigate immigration offenses.

His ruling came more than a year after the case was argued in Salt Lake City's federal court.

Modeled after a similar law in Arizona, the measure was part of a package of immigration reform bills that were due to take effect in May 2011.

"We don't have a statement beyond the filings at this point, but may after Judge Waddoups reviews the submission," Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, said in an e-mail.

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U.S. President Barack Obama announced last week he was easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Tuesday's agreement allows immigration status checks only during a lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, according to court documents.

It also says a stop or arrest cannot be prolonged merely to confirm a person's immigration status.

The settlement further says the law does not require Utah residents to carry identification at all times, the ACLU said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)