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Federal judge hears arguments on South Carolina immigration law

A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] on Tuesday heard arguments on part of South Carolina's controversial immigration law [SB 20, materials] that permits law enforcement officials to detain motorists on the side of the road for a "reasonable amount of time" while the officer checks the driver's immigration status. Judge Richard Gergel asserted that 90 minutes is too long [AP report] to detain a vehicle, but that 38 minutes could be considered reasonable and may not violate the constitutional protections against unlawful searches and seizures conferred by the Fourth Amendment [text]. In July Gergel declined to lift an injunction [JURIST report] against the law despite the recent US Supreme Court [official website] decision striking down most of the model Arizona immigration law [SB 1070, PDF; JURIST news archive]. Gergel blocked provisions of the law [JURIST report] from being enforced in December. Gergel is likely to issue his ruling in the next few days.

The lawsuit against the South Carolina immigration law was put on hold [JURIST report] in January pending the outcome of Arizona v. United States. South Carolina is one of five states, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Utah [JURIST reports] that modeled their recent immigration laws after Arizona's controversial SB 1070. Following the Supreme Court's ruling in Arizona v. United States [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] in June, lower courts have handed down a variety of rulings. In September, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a controversial provision of Arizona's immigration law] that requires law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of persons they stop or arrest if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the US illegally. In August the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] several provisions of Alabama's controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF], upheld a few sections of the law and rejected part of Georgia's immigration law [HB 87, text]. That same month, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] again heard arguments [JURIST report] on two anti-illegal immigrant laws enacted in 2006 by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which deny permits to businesses that employ illegal immigrants and fine landlords who extend housing to them.

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