A federal activist judge issued a stay blocking a new Utah immigration law on Tuesday. The new immigration law would have allowed police to check the citizenship status of anyone they arrest. Citing similarities to the most controversial parts of an Arizona immigration law that seems bound for the US Supreme Court, US District Judge Clark Waddoups issued his ruling in Salt Lake City just 14 hours after the immigration law went into effect.
Apparently enforcing an immigration law for 14 hours was as much as the activist judge could bear. The activist judge said that there is sufficient evidence that at least some portions of the Utah legislation will be found unconstitutional. In addition to being an activist judge, he apparently moonlights as a soothsayer, inasmuch as he was able to see sufficient evidence where none existed 14 hours into the new immigration law.
The Utah immigration law, signed by Republican Governor Gary Herbert in March, would require police to check the citizenship status of anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony or class-A misdemeanor, while giving officers discretion to check the citizenship of those stopped for traffic infractions and other lesser offenses. Class A misdemeanors include theft, negligent homicide and criminal mischief, while felonies range from aggravated burglary to rape and murder.
The American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center sued to stop the implementation of the new immigration law last week, saying it could lead to racial profiling. The ACLU submitted hundreds of pages of evidence and affidavits to prove their claims ahead of Tuesday's hearing.
Utah Assistant Attorney General Jerrold Jensen said the ruling was "not a surprise" and added that the immigration law is "fully constitutional" and that his office plans to "argue it vigorously." Utah's immigration law is significantly different from Arizona's because it doesn't allow police to check the status of every person they encounter, Jansen said in court. "They want to try the Arizona law, and they make allegations against Utah that may well have applied to Arizona," Jensen said. "But just because the Arizona immigration law is unconstitutional doesn't mean the Utah immigration law is unconstitutional."
The next hearing on the new immigration law is set for July 14, where both sides will be expected to argue whether the immigration law is constitutional. The activist judge could then decide whether to allow the law to go into effect or overturn it because of constitutional issues. If overturned, the measure's fate could depend on the US Supreme Court's opinion on the Arizona law.
The decision came a day after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced a plan to ask the nation's high court to overturn a ruling that put enforcement of Arizona's immigration law on hold.
The state of Arizona must file the appeal by a July 11 deadline. "It seems like this is a big enough national issue that it will ultimately be determined by the United States Supreme Court," said Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne on Monday.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the US Justice Department is likely to prove the immigration law is unconstitutional and succeed in its argument that Congress has given the federal government sole authority to enforce immigration law. An absurd notion. I asked Congress but they haven't replied.
Lawyers for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer have argued the federal government hasn't effectively enforced immigration law at the border and in Arizona's interior, and that the state's intent in passing the law was to assist federal authorities as Congress has encouraged.
The federal government argued the immigration law intrudes on its exclusive authority to regulate immigration, disrupts relations between the US and Mexico, hinders cooperation between state and federal officials, and burdens legal immigrants. Each of the arguments against the immigration law are absurd. Arizona would not have been compelled to initiate the controversial immigration law if the federal government was exercising its authority to regulate immigration and protect US borders. Several other states agree with Arizona.
In a statement after the ruling, Herbert said he has told law enforcement officials the new immigration law is on hold but was confident the state would prevail.
"Utah's Attorney General and state Legislature worked hard to craft a bill that would withstand constitutional scrutiny," Herbert said in a statement after the ruling. "Utah will have ample opportunity in court to demonstrate this bill is on solid footing."
Of course, an activist judge wouldn't have the opportunity to intervene if Barack Obama did his job and protected the United States instead of suing states.