US government sues over Utah immigration law

WASHINGTON, Nov 22, 2011 (AFP) - President Barack Obama's administration Tuesday challenged a new immigration law by Utah, the fourth such law it has taken on, arguing it is unconstitutional and undercuts federal immigration authority, the Justice Department said.

Federal prosecutors said in a complaint filed in Utah that the law, called H.B. 497, "clearly violates the Constitution because it attempts to establish state-specific immigration policy.

The law sets out immigration enforcement measures that "interfere with the immigration priorities and practices of the federal government in a way which is not cooperative with the primary federal role in this area," a Justice Department statement said.

Its law enforcement provisions could lead to harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants in the process of having their US immigration status reviewed, prosecutors said in the statement.

"A patchwork of immigration laws is not the answer and will only create further problems in our immigration system," said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said this type of legislation "diverts critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety," and also "undermines the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve."

The Justice Department earlier challenged local state immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina. It is reviewing laws passed by Indiana and Georgia, the statement said.

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