ACLU and Civil Rights Coalition File Lawsuit Against South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law
Class-Action Lawsuit Filed in the Wake of Crisis in Alabama as a Result of Similar State Immigration Law
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CHARLESTON, S.C. ― The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups today filed a lawsuit against South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, charging it is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling, and interferes with federal law.
Today’s complaint was filed two weeks after a similar anti-immigrant law went into effect in Alabama, where families have been afraid to leave their homes and individuals have been stopped and questioned about their immigration status.
The lawsuit charges that the law, SB 20, subjects South Carolinians – including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents – to unlawful search and seizure and interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters. The law requires police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person lacks immigration status and criminalizes South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room to a friend.
“This lawsuit is the latest in our ongoing fight against these unconstitutional laws. In recent days, we have seen the destructive results of a similar law in Alabama, and the people of South Carolina should not face the same fate,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This law must be blocked, as it tramples our American values, interferes with federal laws and risks turning South Carolina into a police state.”
South Carolina’s law, which is slated to take effect Jan. 1, was inspired by Arizona’s notorious SB 1070. Federal courts have blocked implementation of key provisions of Arizona’s law, as well as similar laws in Indiana and Georgia. A federal judge in Alabama recently allowed key provisions of its anti-immigrant law to take effect, leading to devastating humanitarian and economic consequences throughout the state. The coalition continues to challenge that law in federal court, and also has a pending case against Utah’s anti-immigrant law.
“By requiring local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents, this law invites discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds ‘foreign,’ including American citizens and legal residents,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “It will make criminals out of good Samaritans, harm victims of crime and abuse, hamper police in preventing and solving crimes, and create a climate of fear and prejudice in South Carolina.”
The coalition in the South Carolina case includes the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.
The complaint can be found at: