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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Builder Calls Utah Immigration Law Unfair

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A new Utah law against immigrants in the construction business aims to "punish" contractors, one company claims in federal court.

Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, addresses lawful presence in the United States with regard to unincorporated construction licensing, according to a summary on the state's website. Those who violate the law face class A misdemeanor charges and license revocation.

Universal Contracting LLC claims that the law, which modified three sections of the Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act in 2011, endangers its license.

The changes aim to "punish" unincorporated contractors who "knowingly or unknowingly grant an ownership interest to persons not lawfully present in the United States," the complaint states.

Universal, an unincorporated entity, says it has about 700 owners who provide a variety of construction services throughout Utah.

The Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing has allegedly fined the American Fork-based company six times since the passage of S.B. 35 and allegedly threatened to take its contractor's license.

Universal says that each $250 citation claimed that an "individual holding membership interest" in the company was not legally present in the United States, a violation of S.B. 35 section 10.

"The immigration-related provisions of S.B. 35 do not define 'lawfully present in the United States,' nor do they define how that determination is made leaving it up to the administrative divisions of the State of Utah to determine whether the owners are lawfully present," the 20-page complaint states.

"The immigration-related provisions of S.B. 35 do not require a knowing violation, do not expressly reference the Federal I-9 requirements, nor expressly allow a defense for any licensee that has followed the Federal I-9 procedures," it continues.

"The immigration-related provisions of S.B. 35 do not apply to traditional employees of a licensee, but only to any owners of an unincorporated entity who provide construction services."

Utah's measures are inconsistent with federal immigration law, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act pre-empts them, Universal says.

"S.B. 35's immigration-related enforcement scheme conflicts with and undermines the federal government's careful balance of immigration-related enforcement priorities and objectives," the complaint states. "It conflicts with longstanding federal law governing the services of aliens."

The company sued the Utah Department of Commerce and its executive director, Francine Giani; the Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing; and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Universal seeks to declare invalid and permanently enjoin the enforcement of sections 10, 11 and 12 of S.B. 35.

The company is represented by Marty Moore with Peck Hadfield Baxter & Moore of Logan.

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