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Utah legislature approves new version of Arizona-style immigration bill

The Utah House and Senate [official websites] on Friday approved a new Arizona-style immigration law. The Utah Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act [HB 497 text, PDF] replaces the older version [HB 70 text, PDF] of the law that had lost favor with state Senate members in the last few weeks. The new law omits [text, PDF] the controversial language [Salt Lake Tribune report] that critics had accused of being too similar to the controversial Arizona-style law. The Utah law still requires police officers to question any individual about their immigration status if stopped for a felony or serious misdemeanor, but now omits the "reasonable suspicion" standard for police officials. The new law also clarifies that any inquiry into the legal status of a person stopped for a lesser misdemeanor is optional. The new law also eliminates a provision that would have made it mandatory for anyone in Utah to carry identification with them at all times. Critics of the law, however, remain skeptical [Salt Lake Tribune report] as to whether the changes are significant enough to differentiate Utah's immigration policies from those of Arizona.

The older version of the bill, sponsored by Representative Stephen Sandstrom (R) [official profile], was approved by the House [JURIST report] last month, but the bill soon lost favor in the Senate, causing Sandstrom to abandon the bill [Salt Lake Tribune report] and draft a new version. 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.

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