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Latin American countries join DOJ in South Carolina immigration law challenge

Sixteen Latin American, Caribbean and South American governments have filed supporting briefs in a lawsuit filed last week [JURIST report] by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] challenging the South Carolina's newly adopted immigration law [SB 20 text]. The briefs contend that the new law will "impede effective and consistent diplomatic relations," and encourage "an imminent threat of state-sanctioned bias or discrimination" of their citizens. The countries are also concerned about the detrimental effects the new law will have on trade and tourism. The briefs request that the court "preliminarily enjoin SB 20, and declare it unconstitutional in its entirety." The DOJ complaint [text, PDF] claims that the new legislation, which allows police officers to check a suspect's immigration status during a lawful stop, seizure, detention or arrest, and requires businesses to participate in the E-Verify [official website] system, creates a patchwork of state and local immigration policies that conflict with the policies and principles of the federal government. The department is requesting an injunction barring certain portions of the state law that would take effect on January 1.The governments that filed briefs are: Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

State responses to inadequate federal immigration law continue to create controversy. The South Carolina legislation was recently challenged [complaint, PDF] by a coalition of civil rights groups [JURIST report], including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) [advocacy websites] and others who claim it invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law. The US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama [official website] denied similar motions for injunction against that state's recently passed immigration law [JURIST reports]. In August, the state of Arizona filed a petition for writ of certiorari [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court seeking to overturn a lower court decision enjoining four provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive], on which the South Carolina and Alabama legislation is modeled.

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