Federal judge issues split ruling on Utah immigration law

- SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – A federal ruling came down Wednesday on a controversial Utah immigration law. Part of the law is staying intact, but some of it is being ruled unconstitutional.

A federal judge is striking down part of one of Utah's new immigration laws, but what that means is open to interpretation.

"It's kind of a slippery slope, we're going to have to see how law enforcement takes this," said Aaron Tarin, Attorney.

Immigration Attorney Aaron Tarin said one of his clients is on the lawsuit mentioned in Wednesday's federal ruling.

Similar to a controversial immigration law in Arizona, back in 2011 Governor Gary Herbert signed several Utah laws, including House Bill 497. Among other things, it authorized police to check the immigration status of someone they stopped or arrested, and gave officers "reasonable cause" to arrest someone they thought may be an illegal immigrant.

Now after three years of legal battles, Wednesday a federal judge overseeing the District of Utah ruled police can check the immigration status of someone they stop, but they can not arrest someone just because they might be illegal.

Wednesday the American Civil Liberties Union is claiming victory, saying quote:

"The court's message is loud and clear: state and local police may not stop, detain, or arrest someone solely for immigration purposes," said Jennifer Chang Newell of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case in 2013.

However, the Utah Governor's office is unsure how it will impact real situations.

"We are reviewing the ruling to determine how it impacts the package of bills passed in 2011," said Marty Carpenter, Spokesperson for the Governor’s Office.

Attorney Aaron Tarin said it shows the pitfalls of Utah trying to enforce federal immigration laws.

"It's something that has to be reserved for the federal government, when states get involved you've got constitutional issues," said Tarin.

As you can see, some people have differing opinions on what the ruling means. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is claiming if the people behind the lawsuit want to appeal Wednesday's ruling, the state will defend the court's decision.

Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @briancarlsontv

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