On March 15, 2011, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed into law four immigration bills passed by the state’s legislature. Calling the combined bills “the Utah solution,” Governor Herbert challenged the federal government to “get off the sidelines” regarding immigration reform in his press release. Similar to last year’s Arizona law (SB 1070), which remains the subject of a lawsuit filed by the federal government – see the most recent discussion in the December 2010 issue of the Immigration eAuthority), Utah’s HB 497 requires law enforcement to verify the immigration status of persons arrested for more serious crimes and, for lesser offenses, authorizes peace officers to verify an individual’s immigration status during the course of lawful stops, detentions or arrests.
Governor Herbert also signed HB 116 into law, a somewhat more radical and novel law that will establish a “Guest Worker Program” as of July 1, 2013. The text of HB 116 anticipates that Utah will need to consult with the federal government to gain authorization to operate the Guest Worker Program. Legal commentators are already questioning the constitutionality of this law and the entire “Utah Solution.” Once again, Arizona’s immigration laws will serve as a key basis of comparison when examining the constitutionality of Utah’s new laws. As of this writing, the validity of the Arizona laws continues to be under review in the courts (see the January 2011 issue of the Immigration eAuthority).
For employers, the new Utah laws are likely to have minimal immediate impact. However, employers should remember that starting July 1, 2010, Utah began requiring businesses with 15 or more employees to use E-Verify (or another status verification system, such as the Social Security Number Verification Service) to verify the employment authorization eligibility of newly-hired employees. See the Utah Department of Commerce press release and visit the Verify Utah website for more information.