This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One of the Utah immigration bills from last year is currently the subject of two lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center, and by the U.S. Department of Justice. Apart from the contested elements of the bill, it is important to note the profound, and somewhat disregarded, impact that HB497 has on the state's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
HB497 is unconstitutional. States cannot formulate immigration policy. Only the federal government has that constitutional authority.
Yet, depending on the alleged offense, HB497 requires or allows law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone detained and believed to have a questionable immigration status. The bill requires that an individual provide specific documentation of legal U.S. residency. Without it, they could be subjected to unreasonably long detentions.
This factor alone makes HB497 inconsistent with Utah values and traditions of freedom and democracy. The bill promotes racial profiling, places unreasonable burdens on Utah's already strained law enforcement officers, and opens the door for other states to create their own immigration law.
Yet, beyond the basic fact that the bill is unconstitutional, it has far-reaching implications in the lives of every Utahn, including the LGBT community. Real people are affected.
Michael's parents brought him to America when he was 6 months old. He grew up in Utah, attended Utah schools and speaks English as a first language. He is the eldest of seven children and close to his parents and siblings, who were born in Utah. When he was 19, Michael met and fell in love with David, a Utah resident and U.S. citizen. The two now live together but fear that, even though he has never engaged in criminal behavior, Michael could be deported at any time. Michael has neither visited nor had any connection to the country of his birth.
Elle and Elizabeth are also at risk. They have been living together as a loving, committed couple for seven years. Elle is an American citizen, an elementary school teacher, and a lifelong resident of Utah. Elizabeth is a Columbian citizen who came to Utah on a student visa. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Utah, where she earned a civil engineering degree. She entered the United States legally but her visa recently expired and she is living undocumented.
Elle and Elizabeth have the same dreams and goals of most loving couples in Utah. They want to marry and start a family. Elle wants to sponsor Elizabeth for lawful immigration status based on their relationship ‚ but she cannot. HB497 amplifies the couple's fears and makes them more vulnerable. By simply continuing to live together, Elle is placed at risk of criminal charges under HB497, so she is considering leaving the state where she grew up and has lived all her life.
HB497 would force couples like these to choose between love and the law, resulting in a life of immobility and fear. Nearly 260 binational families composed of lesbian and gay U.S. citizens with noncitizen partners live in Utah. HB497 contains a harboring clause that unfairly and unconstitutionally forces binational couples to choose between breaking the law, or turning in his or her noncitizen spouse or partner to immigration officials to be deported.
The noncitizen partners engage in the same conduct as other loving couples. They provide one another safety, shelter, security and peace of mind. Yet, HB497 criminalizes the citizen partner for simply caring for the person they love.
Utah has more to gain from respectful and responsible federal immigration legislation than from unconstitutional, individual state laws that destroy vulnerable families, persecute those in search of a better life and dehumanize members of our community.
Our elected officials have the opportunity to encourage our federal delegation to push for a comprehensive immigration policy that is good for the American people and good for our economy. We deserve a sensible policy that protects our borders, protects America's relationships with other countries, and, most importantly, treats people, regardless of our many differences, with dignity and humanity.
Max Green is the advocacy coordinator for Equality Utah, a political advocacy organization.