A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] on Thursday blocked [order, PDF] portions of South Carolina's controversial immigration law [SB 20]. The legislation requires police officers to check a suspect's immigration status during a lawful stop, seizure, detention or arrest if they believe the person may be in the country illegally and requires businesses to participate in the E-Verify [official website] system. It was challenged by a coalition of civil rights groups and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [JURIST reports], which both argued that it is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law. Judge Richard Gergel blocked the provision that requires police to check immigration status, finding, "[t]his state-mandated scrutiny is without consideration of federal enforcement priorities and unquestionably vastly expands the persons targeted for immigration enforcement action. He also blocked the provision that outlaws harboring or transporting an illegal immigrant, finding a likelihood of irreparable harm. The law was set to take effect January 1.
Similar immigration laws are being challenged throughout the US. Last week Alabama and Georgia filed motions in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] seeking to stay proceedings [JURIST report] on challenges to their immigration laws pending a ruling by the US Supreme Court [official website] in Arizona v. United States [docket]. The Supreme Court agreed [JURIST report] earlier this month to rule on a challenge to Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 materials], which criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. A challenge is also pending to an immigration law in Utah, and an Indiana law has been blocked [JURIST reports] by a federal judge.