We have a clearer picture of the future of Utah’s immigration law today, and there is both good news and bad news for immigrants in Utah. The United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling on Arizona’s immigration law and found three of the four parts to be unconstitutional and at odds with laws enacted by Congress. Utah’s immigration law is currently on hold; in February U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups put off issuing a decision on Utah’s law until he received “additional guidance” from the Supreme Court. Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, the Utah case will start moving again.
Parts of the Utah law are likely to be found unconstitutional. According to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the ruling prohibits police from conducting a warrantless arrest of immigrants. This is a minor victory for immigrants in Utah since it means that Utah cannot arrest someone for their immigration status alone.
The part of the Arizona law which the Court did not strike down requires police officers to verify the immigration status of everyone they detain or arrest. The Court left open the possibility that it would later strike down the law, but declined to do so because it is not yet clear that Arizona will enforce the law in an unconstitutional manner. According to the Court, communication between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is encouraged by Congress, and therefore Arizona’s law was not preempted by federal law. The Court left open the possibility that the law could be overturned on other grounds.
Utah has a similar provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they detain or arrest. Unless Utah implements the law in an unconstitutional manner—such as a racially motivated way—that part of the law is likely to stand. It remains to be seen how long a police officer can detain someone to verify immigration status.