Two bills passed by the 2009 Utah Legislature have attracted attention due to questions about how local law enforcement officials will handle the responsibility placed on agencies by the new laws.
Senate Bill 81 and House Bill 64 deal with immigration. The laws will become effective July 1.
The bills contain provisions that could loop law enforcement into checking the legal status of people arrested or held in custody by local authorities.
On Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issued a press release hoping to clarify a situation that surfaced regarding the new laws.
"I will enforce these laws and expect all law enforcement agencies to comply," said Shurtleff in a statement contained in the press release. "There has been some confusion over one aspect of SB-81. It does not require law enforcement agencies to cross-deputize their officer to enforce federal immigration laws."
"However, the law provides a mechanism for local law enforcement officers to become certified immigration officers," continued Shurtleff. "Bottom line - we want to do more to protect the citizens of Utah and anyone being preyed upon by violent felons."
Locally, Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova indicated that he has not read the bill. But he said he heard state media reports concerning Salt Lake City's police chief refusal to follow the statute.
"We are obliged to do whatever the statute requires," stated Cordova on Tuesday. "But not having read this, we may have some discretion as to how to deal with it. We will have to review it to be sure what we will do however."
Shurtleff issued a summary of two recently passed laws concerning illegal immigration.
Senate Bill 81 requires the following.
â¢Requires a sheriff to make a reasonable effort to determine a jail inmates citizenship and to consider an illegal immigrant a flight risk when granting bonds.
â¢Forbids an illegal immigrant from getting a liquor license or private club license.
â¢Creates identification documents for U.S. citizens, nationals or legal permanent resident aliens and places time restrictions on documents when immigration status is in question.
â¢Requires public employers to use Status Verification System for new employees.
â¢Forbids public employers from firing a lawful employee while still employing an illegal immigrant.
â¢Requires verification of citizenship before providing federal, state or local public benefits.
â¢Requires the A.G. to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Justice Department or Homeland Security on how state and local officers can become eligible to enforce federal immigration laws.
â¢Makes transporting or harboring an illegal alien for financial gain a Class A misdemeanor.
House Bill 64 authorizes the Attorney General's Office to oversee a multi-agency strike force. The federally funded strike force will include participants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and state and local law enforcement agencies. The strike force will do the following.
â¢Focus on detecting, investigating, deterring and eradicating violent and other major felony criminal activity related to illegal immigration and human trafficking.
â¢Oversee the Fraudulent Documents Identification Unit to investigate and prosecute crimes involving false identification documents for illegal immigrants.
â¢Provide an annual report to the governor and legislature by December 1 of each year.