A recent settlement involving multiple civil rights groups led the state of Utah to change and discard clauses of the HB 497 Provision Act, an anti immigrant law that punishes people who are caught driving or doing other daily activities without immigration documents at hand. The law also allows policemen or other state authorities to stop and detain anyone whom they suspect is illegally in the country. The recent changes will put limits on these acts, which are deemed unconstitutional, and hopefully provide radical changes to the much disputed issue.
Due to the settlement the “show me your papers” approach has been limited dramatically, and police are no longer allowed to approach and accost citizens for their papers based on suspicion alone. Jennifer Chang Newell, of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, believes that the changes in Utah’s immigration laws should be followed by other states that have strict immigration policies. The Utah settlement proceeded after a federal district court decision which prohibits provisions in state laws.
In 2001, civil rights groups deemed HB 497 as unconstitutional due to interfering with federal and Supreme Court authority of immigration matters. The groups insisted that HB 497 violated the Fourth Amendment and it encouraged unreasonable arrests without probable cause.
Shiu Ming Cheer, staff attorney for National Immigration Law Center, stated that Utah is now part of six other states who have realized that racial profiling is not only inhumane but it also goes against major laws that are supported by the US Constitution. Many states believe that laws such as the HB 497 need especial consideration and reviews because they are paving the way our country will deal with the controversial immigration issues, as well as the deep impact they are having on families and communities that already feel profiled and ostracized.