Salt Lake City’s local NBC channel reports that many residents are up in arms about a new state immigration law (SB 81) that would allow police to question individuals’ legal status, among other stringent requirements on everyone from employers to landlords. The Salt Lake Police Department’s Chief Burbank has been opposed to the immigration bill from the beginning and, according to some sources, has said he will not participate in its enforcement.
There have been growing national concerns about the involvement of local police in the enforcement of immigration law. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice for civil rights infractions associated with his police department’s partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Burbank is justifiably cautious in his opposition to enforcing a law that he believes requires law enforcement to racially profile individuals to determine whether they are undocumented or not.
BURBANK: When you start wandering in to the area that law enforcement should take biased, racially motivated enforcement actions, there’s ten other places in the law that say we shouldn’t do that. This one contradicts that. That’s not right.
Burbank isn’t the only concerned community member. Even lawmakers who passed the bill under public pressure aren’t praising it as a concrete solution. Father Bob Bussen, a religious leader at St. Mary’s Catholic Church who laments the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the state told the Utah Park Record:
” There is definitely going to be some profiling by police…They’re going to go out and arrest your baker and your landscaper and put them in jail simply for being here illegally. We’ll be using our jails as holding pens when we need them to get criminals. Who are we holding? It’s compounded by the poor economy…[SB 81's] premise is to create fear, and the bill should scare the hell out of all of us. We would have the same fear if, as Americans, we were stopped by the police.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently expressed concerns with the constitutionality and practicality of the law, ultimately recommending that Utah give the federal government one year to deal with immigration laws on a national level:
ACLU: To do so would allow the federal government a year to deal with comprehensive immigration reform, and spare the State of Utah an incredible financial commitment, that with federal comprehensive immigration reform would be a waste of money and resources.
According to community activist Tony Yapias,
“Separating everyone else based on citizenship and legal status, there’s no question that we’re very concerned about racial profiling…The best chance to fight that would be if immigration reform happens this year on the federal level.”