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Utah State Immigration Laws

Understanding the complexities of immigration law is challenging and overwhelming. Each state may have different rules about the rights and responsibilities of immigrants. It is crucial to learn about your rights under immigration law. This applies to those processing their legal immigration to the United States.

Below are some of the topics in this article:

Law Enforcement and Immigration in Utah

In 2001, Utah enacted a law mandating police check the immigration status of anyone arrested for specific misdemeanors or felonies. Officers can also verify the status if they reasonably suspect someone is in the U.S. illegally. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the law in federal district court and won. So, the law no longer stands.

Yet, federal laws may still regulate the enforcement of immigration laws at the state level. For instance, some programs require collaboration between federal and state law enforcement agencies. One of these programs is the Criminal Apprehension Program (CAP) by the U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE). Its mission is to protect the country by arresting, identifying, and removing those threatening U.S. communities' national security and safety.

The Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) manages CAP and its initiatives as part of its mission. In particular, ERO investigates, arrests, prosecutes, and removes noncitizens illegally in the country. They also ensure that the state complies with the immigration enforcement processes.

Cooperation between the federal and local law enforcement agencies is crucial in managing these programs. The federal government also has agencies that work as a centralized body for matters related to immigration laws. Below are some of these government agencies:

These federal agencies work hand in hand in enforcing and managing immigration laws. They also secure U.S. borders and ensure the nation is free from threats.

Employment and Professional Licensing

In April 2023, a new law opened the door for immigrants with professional training and licensing from other countries to get licensed in Utah. The bill, called Reciprocal Professional Licensing, became law. This allows nine departments in Utah to issue licenses to immigrants. The law allows people from other countries and states to prove they have the necessary experience and skills to get a license.

In December 2019, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients are eligible for admission to the Utah State Bar. But they should meet all requirements for admission.

In March 2015, the Utah Senate signed Senate Bill 131 into law. This law allows occupational therapists to get licenses if they have a license in another state or foreign country and have passed the board exam.

Utah E-Verify Requirements

The USCIS created E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of immigrants in the country. It is an online database that contains information on people's immigration status. Employers may use it to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The DHS administered the program in collaboration with the Social Security Administration.

Starting May 4, 2022, employers with 150 or more employees must register with the E-Verify system. They can hire new employees only if they verify the person's legal working status.

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Immigrants without proper documentation in Utah may get driving privileges. Senate Bill 227, signed into law on March 8, 2005, made it possible. The bill allows residents without proper documentation to get a driving privilege card. This is possible if the person has no Social Security number (SSN). But, applicants must submit documents that show proof of their identity and residency in Utah. They must also do fingerprinting. The fingerprinting will check against the state, local, and regional criminal records. They must also renew the driving privilege yearly.

Utah also allows DACA recipients to get a driver's license or state identification card.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Federal law bars immigrants without proper documentation from getting most public benefits. But, they can get emergency services, health care, and other programs "necessary to protect life and safety."

Education Checks

Eligible people without proper documentation, including DACA recipients, may access Utah's in-state tuition and financial aid. House Bill 144 made this possible, which took effect on March 26, 2002. But, the students should meet specific requirements. The student should have:

  • Attended high school in Utah for three years or more
  • Graduated from a high school in Utah or received an equivalent of a high school diploma before the school term
  • Have not registered for classes before the 2002-2003 academic year
  • Submitted an affidavit stating that the student will file an application for legal immigration status or is willing to apply whenever eligible

Then, on March 30, 2020, Senate Bill 111 reaffirmed this rule that students without documentation can pay in-state tuition in Utah. They must file an affidavit with the school stating that they applied for legal immigration or will apply as soon as possible.

Housing Ordinances and Immigration

Utah adopted the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that protects people from discriminatory housing practices. But, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies in the state impact the eligibility of DACA recipients to get mortgages.

Utah adopted the FHA policy, which states that non-U.S. citizens without legal residency are not eligible to apply for FHA-insured loans.

Related Resources

There are for-profit and nonprofit organizations that help immigrants in Utah. The following are some of these organizations:

  • Holy Cross Ministries — This organization helps immigrants gain legal immigration status in the United States. The organization recognizes the need for low-income migrants in Utah. It offers no-cost or low-cost immigration services such as legal consultation, family reunification programs, citizenship and naturalization services, and more. It also provides orientation and counseling services in its Salt Lake City office.
  • Catholic Community Services of Utah — Migration and Refugee Services — This organization gives Utah immigration services and help to immigrants and their families. It also offers a broad range of legal assistance, such as adjustment of status, processing employment authorization, family-based petitions, asylum applications, and more.
  • International Rescue Committee (Salt Lake City Office) — This committee responds to humanitarian crises and helps people build their lives through various services and programs.

Learn More About Your Rights: Talk to an Immigration Attorney

Navigating the complex rules of immigration law is overwhelming. Some rules apply to one state but not the other. Federal laws and regulations may also affect its application. Due to these complexities in the immigration system, we recommend you consult an immigration attorney.

Immigration attorneys can help you understand the immigration program. They can offer legal services tailored to your case. They can also help you get legal status. For those who are facing deportation or removal proceedings, immigration attorneys can also give you legal representation in immigration court.

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