Some of the key provisions of the immigration law that the state of Utah put in place in 2011 giving police powers to arrest people on suspicion of being in the country illegally were rolled back according to a civil liberties group. Under the settlement, law enforcement officers will no longer be allowed to stop people primarily to check their legal status, detain them, or take them to federal immigration authorities. Jennifer Chang Newell, an official of ACLU, said that this settlement will deter other states from doing stopping people on suspicion of being in the country illegally.
The police will still be allowed to check the status of suspects only for those who have been detained for other reasons, or after a detainee has been released. In 2011, the ACLU argued that Utah was taking over a function that was the responsibility of the federal government. U.S District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled in June that a police officer cannot detain someone on the basis of race.
Waddoups also struck down the provision that mandated local police officers to investigate immigration offences. He also stopped the state of Utah from arresting people who they suspect are harboring illegal aliens, thereby opening the door that has led to some provisions of the 2010 immigration law to be rolled back in Utah.
President Obama signed an executive order last week that will shield some undocumented immigrants from deportation. They will also be allowed to apply for work permits.
In November 2013 ABC4Utah television station carried a story which reviewed the benefits and the disadvantages brought to Utah by undocumented immigrants. The reporter spoke with “Ana,” who declined to given her real name. “Ana” said that she entered the United States with a valid visa but remained in the country after the visa expired. She told the reporter that she decided to stay in search of a better life. She added that she paid her rent, cellphone, taxes, and insurance just like everybody else.
Tony Yapias, a radio talk show host and an immigration assistant, said on ABC 4 Utah that there are more than 125,000 undocumented immigrants in the state who make millions of dollars that they spend in Utah by buying cars, insurance, and cellphones among other essential services. According to a report released by the Pew Hispanic Center, 5.4 percent of the state’s workforce is made up of undocumented immigrants. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy reported that undocumented immigrants paid $105 million in local and state taxes in 2010. This was in addition to $77 million that came from sales taxes.
Chris Herrod, a proponent of legal immigration who is a former Utah State Representative, said that the burden of allowing undocumented immigrants to live in the state outweighed the benefits. He gave an example of the cost associated with flying undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes back to Mexico. He said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents removed more than 3,300 criminals-each at a cost of about $10,000-in 2010.
Charlie Morgan, a professor at Ohio University, carried out a study that showed that 6 to 9 percent of inmates in Utah’s state jails were illegal immigrants. The report indicated that the Utah spends at least $53 million every year handling activities related to crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Some residents fear that rolling back some of the provisions giving law enforcement the power to inquire into the immigration status of detainees in Utah is likely to cause a spike in crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
By Benedicto Ateku