Immigration Equality, a national organization fighting for equality under U.S. immigration law for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-positive individuals, has filed an amicus brief in support of a constitutional challenge to Utah’s recently enacted Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act (“HB 497”). The group says the law – which mirrors the controversial measure passed last year in Arizona – could place LGBT binational families in legal jeopardy under a provision that criminalizes “harboring” and “sheltering” undocumented individuals. That provision, the brief filed yesterday argues, would criminalize LGBT Americans who live with undocumented partners from abroad.
“Utah’s unconscionable new immigration law actually criminalizes sharing a home with an undocumented person, even if that person is a partner or spouse,” said Victoria Neilson, the group’s legal director.
“No one should be arrested for sharing their home with the person they love, but that is the very real possibility presented by this law. With this legislation, families who previously had no legal recognition are now in legal jeopardy. That is unacceptable and unconstitutional.”A couple cited in Immigration Equality’s brief, who asked not to use their names for fear of prosecution, is among the countless families who face potential prosecution under the law. The American citizen, a lifelong resident of Utah and a social worker, is considering leaving the state because his partner of two years, who received training to become a doctor, overstayed his visa. Under current immigration laws, the American has no ability to sponsor his partner for residency, as married, straight couples are allowed to do.
Merely living together, as many binational couples do, turns the American citizen into a criminal under the Utah law. A copy of the organization’s brief is available online at www.immigrationequality.org/issues/law-library/legal-briefs/. The brief was filed with pro bono support from the law firm of WilmerHale – including attorneys Alan Schoenfeld, Doug Curtis, Brian Sutherland, Patty Li, Michael Gottesman and Shauna Friedman – and local counsel, Brian Barnard of Utah Legal Clinic.