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Federal judge upholds motorist provision of South Carolina immigration law

A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Carolina [official website] on Thursday upheld [order, PDF] a provision of South Carolina's controversial immigration law [SB 20, materials] that permits law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of motorists. Judge Richard Gergel ruled that he would still prevent [AP report] certain parts of the immigration law from taking effect. Gergel heard arguments [JURIST report] Tuesday on the part of South Carolina's controversial immigration law 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. During arguments, Gergel asserted that 90 minutes is too long 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 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. 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.

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