Foreign countries line up to oppose Utah immigration law
HB497 • It encourages "state-sanctioned bias," Mexico, 13 others say.
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More than a dozen Latin American countries have filed legal briefs in federal court arguing Utah's enforcement-only immigration law will damage international relationships and urging the judge to rule it unconstitutional.

And on Tuesday, the Utah Attorney General's Office asked for and was granted a 30-day extension in which to respond to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of several plaintiffs by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center.

The 21-page, friend-of-the-court brief was filed June 2 and argues HB497 "substantially and inappropriately burdens the consistent sovereign-to-sovereign relations between Mexico and the United States of America, interfering with the strategic diplomatic interests of the two countries and encouraging an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination."

Mexico is the lead country on the brief but was joined by Argentina, Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Brazil.

In the brief, attorney Lon A. Jenkins makes the case that "Mexico has a right to protect the interests of its nationals within the limits of international law. Mexico seeks to ensure that its citizens present in the U.S. are accorded the human and civil rights granted under the U.S. Constitution and affirms that HB497 threatens the human and civil rights of its nationals."

Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, said that is "ridiculous."

"You look at the same laws in Mexico — if a U.S. citizen goes there, they have to have health insurance, they aren't able to own property and then look at the way they brutally enforce their own southern border," Herrod said. "I would like to ask the Mexican government why they think their people are more important than other people trying to come here from other countries."

HB497, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in March, is modeled after Arizona's enforcement-only law, SB1070. That law has been challenged in federal court, and Gov. Jan Brewer on Monday named Paul Clement, former U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush, to be lead counsel in the push to bring SB170 before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Utah, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups issued a temporary restraining order last month, keeping HB497 from taking effect while the sides prepared to argue the case. The trial date is scheduled for July 14.

dmontero@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davemontero