Judge blocks portions of South Carolina's immigration law
A federal judge in South Carolina temporarily blocked portions of the state’s stringent immigration law Thursday, most notably a provision requiring police to detain any person they suspect to be in the country illegally.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel issued the order after the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of civil rights groups sued to block portions of the law from going into effect. Government lawyers argued, as they have when challenging similar laws in other states, that the legislation was preempted by federal immigration statutes.
“The Constitution of the USA and the Immigration and Nationality Act have placed the policy-making role regarding immigration in the hands of the national government,” Gergel said in the order.
The judge also blocked provisions that would make it a felony to transport, conceal or protect a person who is entering the country unlawfully and another provision requiring immigrants to carry a “certificate of alien registration” or receipt.
“The United States Supreme Court will ultimately decide this matter in the coming year,” said South Carolina Atty. Gen. Alan Wilson in a statement. “Until then, it appears that many important aspects of the South Carolina law will go into effect."
The rest of the law will go into effect Jan. 1.
Among those provisions is one requiring the verification of legal status of new workers. Under the law, authorities must check the legal status of prisoners and mandates the transfer of illegal immigrants to federal authorities after they have finished their prison sentences.
The legislation, known as SB 20 and signed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in June, is among a handful of anti-illegal-immigration laws approved by other states.
Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and Indiana have enacted similar laws, but federal courts have blocked all either fully or partially.
The Supreme Court announced last week that it will take up the Arizona law in coming months, probably deciding the fate of the laws in other states.
-- Stephen Ceasar
Photo: Jheanelle Wilkins, front left, with the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Diana Salazar, with the South Carolina Immigration Coalition, lead a protest march against South Carolina law SB 20 to the Charleston Federal Courthouse, where a hearing on the constitutionality of the law was being held Monday morning in Charleston, S.C. Credit: AP Photo/The Post and Courier, Brad Nettles.