The Utah House of Representatives [official website] on Friday approved an Arizona-style immigration law by a 58-15 majority vote. Sponsored by Representative Stephen Sandstrom (R) [official profile], the controversial bill [HB 70 text, PDF] had been amended several times [Salt Lake Tribune report] before going up for a vote. The proposed law will give state law enforcement officials the authority to investigate the immigration status of those they stop or arrest, but under the approved amendments, only for serious crimes. A controversial provision to the bill, which allowed police officers to inquire about a person's immigration status while being stopped or arrested for a misdemeanor, was changed [HB 70 Amended, PDF] last week. Unlike its Arizona predecessor, the Utah immigration bill does not provide an avenue for private citizens to sue local police who do not enforce the law. The House did not pass a proposed amendment [materials, PDF] that would allow illegal aliens "being held for transportation" to remain in the state "if a legal resident of this state offers to sponsor the alien in compliance with the requirements under federal law." The bill will now head to the state Senate [official website] where uncertainty remains as to whether it will pass and be signed into law.
The issue of illegal immigration [JURIST news archive] has been the subject of legislation and lawsuits across the country, and several states have enacted or proposed legislation [JURIST reports] similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law [JURIST news archive]. The Arizona law, which has been widely criticized as unconstitutional for allegedly legalizing racial profiling, has sparked a nationwide debate on immigration policy, prompting calls for immigration reform [JURIST report] from President Barack Obama [official profile]. In October, a judge for the US District Court in the District of Arizona [official website] denied [order, PDF] motions to dismiss a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the constitutionality of the Arizona law. Two other lawsuits [JURIST report] challenging the law were filed last year and are still pending.