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Uncle Sam Sues Utah on Immigration

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - The United States of America says Utah's repressive immigration laws, signed into law in March, allow racial profiling and warrantless arrests and will interfere with the federal government.

The United States sued Utah and its Gov. Gary Herbert in Federal Court. It claims Utah's series of immigration laws - H.B. 116, H.B. 466, H.B. 469 and H.B. 497 - violate the Constitution's Supremacy and Commerce Clauses, and violate the Immigration and Nationality Act, by encroaching on the government's "exclusive authority" over immigration policy.

Utah's new laws, which Herbert signed with hoopla on March 15, allow state law enforcement officials to question and detain anyone they believe to be an illegal immigrant.

Herbert called the changes "the Utah solution," in a press statement the day he signed the bills.

Utah State House Representative Ken Ivory, a Republican, said the laws were meant to "'push back against the federal government and the tradition built up in the courts,' regarding federal primacy in immigration enforcement," according to the complaint, citing "Debate on H.B. 469 Before the House."

State House Minority Leader David Litvack, a Democrat, said "that Utah should 'try to be a lead in this country on how to address' immigration," the complaint states.

But Uncle Sam says the laws will "disrupt the enforcement of federal immigration law. The statute will additionally cause the detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants, and U.S. citizens, thereby further undermining exclusive federal control over the conditions of residence for lawfully admitted aliens and, potentially, a wide range of U.S. foreign affairs interests and commitments," and will "interfere with the federal government's management of interstate commerce."

Uncle Sam points out: "Utah is not the only state that has attempted to encroach upon the federal government's exclusive authority to regulate immigration. When considered in the aggregate, the various conflicting state immigration enforcement schemes would result in further and significant damage to the United States' ability to fairly and consistently enforce and administer the federal immigration laws and to exercise the discretion vested in the executive branch under federal law. Some state laws seek to evade federal enforcement while others seek to force the federal government to increase enforcement efforts in certain state-selected areas. And some state laws have explicitly attempted to impact the removal process by so pervasively affecting the conditions of an alien's residence in the United States as to force the alien to self-deport. This patchwork of inherently contradictory immigration regimes would result in the divergent treatment of aliens across the United States and interfere with the United States' ability to speak with one voice in this highly sensitive area."

In sum: "The nation's immigration laws reflect a careful and considered balance of national law enforcement, foreign relations, and humanitarian interests. To best effectuate and balance these different interests, the Constitution entrusts the federal government with the exclusive authority to determine both 'the character of [immigration] regulations' and 'the manner of their execution.' Chy Lung v. Freeman, 92 U.S. 275, 280 (1876)." (Brackets in complaint.)

Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina have all faced similar lawsuits. Immigration laws in Georgia and Indiana also have been put on hold after federal challenges.

In May, days before the laws were to take effect, civic groups and unions suedto stop it. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups combined that lawsuit with the federal government's action and set a hearing for Feb. 17.

The government "seeks to declare invalid and enjoin the enforcement of Sections 3, 10, and 11 of H.B. 497, and Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-2901 (as amended), because these provisions are preempted by federal law and therefore violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution."

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