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Judge blocks enforcement of Utah immigration law

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
  • Utah HB 497 was only in effect briefly before a judge ruled on it
  • The temporary restraining order blocks the law until the issue is resolved
  • The hearing on a preliminary injunction will be July 14

(CNN) -- Less than 24 hours after going into effect, a Utah federal judge blocked a strict state immigration enforcement law Tuesday afternoon.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order, granting the request by a long list of plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center, after a short hearing.

The law, HB 497, "is stayed pending further order of this court," the minutes of the hearing state. A written ruling was expected to follow.

HB 497 was one of a package of three immigration reform bills that were signed into law. One of the other bills establishes a guest-worker program for the state. The law that is being challenged is an enforcement-only bill that required police to check the immigration status of anyone stopped for felonies or some misdemeanors.

Opponents of the law argued that it violated the Constitution's supremacy clause, which states that federal law has precedence when federal and state laws conflict.

They also argued for a stay of the law on the grounds that it violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects from unreasonable search and seizure, and the "fundamental constitutional right to travel."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a backer of the law, said in a statement that the temporary restraining order is not a ruling on the constitutionality of the measure by the court.

"Utah's attorney general and state legislature worked hard to craft a bill that would withstand constitutional scrutiny," Herbert said. "Utah will have ample opportunity in court to demonstrate this bill is on solid footing. Until then, we will adhere to the court's temporary restraining order."

Critics say the Utah law looks a lot like the controversial Arizona immigration law, which that state recently took to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU argues that the Utah law would lead to racial profiling and would discourage immigrant communities from reporting crimes.

"We are pleased the court has ordered that the law cannot take effect until the court has ample time to review the case in full. We anticipate proving to the court that this discriminatory law threatens the rights of all people in Utah," said Darcy Goddard, legal director of ACLU of Utah.

Utah officials say that the law is different from the Arizona law in some key aspects that address these concerns.

A hearing for a preliminary injunction, which was asked for in the lawsuit, was set for July 14.