[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Tuesday filed a challenge [complaint, PDF; press release] to Utah’s controversial immigration law [HB 497 materials; JURIST news archive]. The measure was signed into law [JURIST report] in March by Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor.The DOJ argues that the law is preempted by federal law because it attempts to establish a state-specific immigration policy. In its complaint, the DOJ said:
Utah’s adoption of its own immigration policy disrupts the federal government’s ability both to administer and enforce the federal immigration laws including as set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and to establish and pursue federal policies and priorities pertaining to, inter alia, the identification, apprehension, detention and removal of aliens unlawfully in the United States. By contributing to this state-specific immigration policy, the challenged provisions of H.B. 497 represent an attempt to regulate in an area constitutionally reserved to the federal government, forcing a conflict with the federal immigration laws and federal immigration policy, interfering with federal primacy in managing the nation’s foreign affairs and in balancing the competing objectives of immigration policy, and impeding the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. Sections 3, 10, and 11 of H.B. 497 are therefore preempted.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official website] temporarily blocked the Utah law in May, less than 24 hours after it took effect, following a challenge [JURIST reports] by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center [advocacy websites] and other plaintiffs.
The DOJ has filed similar suits challenging immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina [JURIST reports]. Federal judges have enjoined portions of each of those laws, and an appeal of the Arizona law is currently pending before the Supreme Court [JURIST report]. The DOJ is reviewing similar immigration legislation passed recently in Indiana and Georgia [JURIST reports].