SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of activists met Monday to discuss the ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona's immigration law.
The group of immigration and civil rights activists, including representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, held a news conference at 11:30 a.m. at the Centro Civico Mexicano in downtown Salt Lake City following the ruling.
A central issue of the news conference was to see how the Supreme Court ruling would affect Utah's immigration laws.
"It probably won't have an immediate effect because the Utah law is different than the Arizona law," said Salt Lake City-based attorney Mark Alvarez.
Alvarez has followed the issue for years.
The Supreme Court upheld one part of Arizona's strict border-control law, the part that compels the state's law enforcement officers to check the residency status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
In a complex decision that's likely to spur similar crackdowns in other states, the court struck down some of Arizona's law while saying it was too soon to tell whether the most controversial status checks went too far.
Utah's House Bill 497 would give local police officers authority to investigate and arrest people for immigration violations. The bill would establish separate state offenses for violations of immigration law. Individuals would also need to carry proof of lawful presence.
"The one part (of the Supreme Court ruling) does have applications to HB 497," Alvarez said.
ACLU of Utah said the law is blocked from taking effect until the Utah federal district court renders a decision on the issues before it.
In a pending lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Utah, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center raise additional claims not considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We will continue to use every means at our disposal to ensure that constitutional rights cannot be put aside according to the color of a person's skin, accent, language or surname," ACLU of Utah Executive Director Karen McCreary said in a statement.
Other states across the country, such as Alabama, have passed their own laws dealing with immigration at a local level.
Alvarez and other immigration activists have stressed that the issue should be decided at a federal level, not by states.
The Supreme Court confirmed that belief.
The law requires Arizona law enforcement personnel who have detained individuals for other legitimate reasons to check residency status if they have a "reasonable suspicion" the detainees are illegal immigrants.
When someone is arrested, residency status must be confirmed before the person is released. This section now can go into effect, after which other legal challenges can be filed.
The court struck down these three major provisions:
* Requiring all immigrants to obtain or carry immigration registration papers.
* Making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job.
* Allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.
The Supreme Court struck down these provisions as intrusions on federal authority.
The ruling will not affect people's day-to-day lives, Alvarez said, because the law in Arizona does not allow police to stop people at random and ask for their papers.
"I doubt the Supreme Court will allow people to check willy-nilly for people's documents," Alvarez said. "I think the impact will be mostly psychological."
As an attorney, Alvarez said he predicted the high court would approve the first part of the law, although personally he would have preferred for them to knock the whole thing down.
However, he is glad the court moved forward on the issue.
"I'm actually happy the Supreme Court has given some clarity on the immigration law, so at least we know where we stand."