LOS ANGELES, May 10, 2011 (AFP) – A federal U.S. court blocked Tuesday a controversial new immigration law in Utah, following a similar legal freeze in neighboring Arizona as President Barack Obama highlighted the issue.

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups issued the ruling hours after the new law, which would notably give police the ability to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest, came into force.

The bill enacting the law, known as HB 497, “is stayed pending further order of this court,” he said in a ruling on a request brought last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

“America is not a ‘show me your papers’ country,” said Cecillia Wang of the ACLU before the ruling. “No one should be subject to investigation, detention and arrest without any suspicion of criminal activity.”

While not as hard-line as Arizona’s proposed law, Utah’s requires police to check the immigration status of people arrested for felonies and serious misdemeanors, while they may check the status for lesser offenses.

Arizona governor Jan Brewer announced Monday that she will take the state’s fight to the US Supreme Court, saying it was essential for the battle against drug- and violence-scarred illegal immigration from Mexico to the south.

During a visit to El Paso, Texas on Tuesday, Obama predicted Republicans would seek to block his drive for immigration reform, in an apparent play for vital Hispanic votes in his 2012 reelection bid.

Obama made a moral and economic case for bringing 11 million illegal immigrants out of the shadows and putting them on a path to citizenship, in a major speech on the U.S.-Mexico border.