SALT LAKE CITY (May 27, 2011) – Today members of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice requested a Utah district court judge to issue an injunction that prevents Utah’s new immigration enforcement bill, HB 497, from taking effect.
Leading a diverse coalition of 22 civil rights organizations – including those in Utah – the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Asian American Institute and Asian Law Caucus filed an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief to support the plaintiffs in Utah Coalition of La Raza v. Herbert.
“It is the role of the federal government, not the states, to fix our broken immigration system,” said Karen Narasaki, AAJC’s president and executive director. “If implemented, Utah’s draconian law will invite racial profiling, divert law enforcement, separate families and criminalize citizens. Furthermore, it encourages a law enforcement scheme where families will fear that every trip out of their home may potentially result in a night in police detention.”
Nicknamed the “Show Me Your Papers” law, HB 497 was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 15, 2011. The law compels all people within Utah – residents, visitors and tourists alike – to carry identification papers at all times to prove their U.S. citizenship or immigration status. Without papers, a person risks extensive investigation and protracted detention until his or her status is verified. On May 10, the federal district court in Utah granted a temporary restraining order that prevented HB 497 from taking effect.
“We led this amicus brief because we want to ensure that HB 497 is never implemented, as this fundamentally unconstitutional law opens the door for law enforcement to discriminate against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and other people of color who look or sound ‘foreign,’” said Stewart Kwoh, APALC’s executive director. “We have faith the court will block this modern-day version of the1892 law that required all persons of Chinese origin to carry with them at all times a “certificate of residence” or risk arrest and imprisonment.”
The amicus brief argues that the recently enacted HB 497 will disproportionately harm communities of color and encourage racial profiling. Enforcement of HB 497 will erode the trust between communities and law enforcement, leading to a chilling effect in crime reporting and in cooperation with police investigations. The brief warns that the unconstitutional bill will unravel decades of progress Utah has made to become a more inclusive state.
The Salt Lake City, Utah, and Irvine, Calif., offices of Dorsey & Whitney LLP provided valuable pro bono support.
“It was important to us to work with AAJC, APALC and the other amici to combat injustice in Utah. This case is particularly imperative as more states consider following the destructive path set out by Arizona and Utah, which only leads to fearful and unsafe communities,” said Steve Marsden, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney who led the pro bono team.
The other participating groups on the amicus brief are: Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance AFL-CIO, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Comunidades Unidas, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, Inclusion Center for Community and Justice, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Japanese American Citizens League, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, National Council of La Raza, National Guestworker Alliance, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, National Tongan American Society, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Organization of Chinese Americans, Rights Working Group and South Asian Americans Leading Together.
The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice ( http://www.advancingjustice.org/) works to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities, and is comprised of the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C. ( http://www.advancingequality.org), the Asian American Institute in Chicago ( http://www.aaichicago.org/), the Asian Law Caucus ( http://www.asianlawcaucus.org/) in San Francisco and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center ( http://www.apalc.org/) in Los Angeles.