ACLU and Civil Rights Coalition Ask Court to Block South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law

December 19, 2011 4:02 pm

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CHARLESTON, S.C. ― The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups asked a federal district judge today to block South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect because it is unconstitutional, interferes with federal laws and would cause great harm in the state.

The coalition was in court today to seek a preliminary injunction that seeks to block the law pending a final ruling on its constitutionality. The U.S. Department of Justice, which also sued South Carolina over the law, also argued for an injunction. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel said he will rule before the law’s Jan. 1 effective date.

“Across the country, we have been fighting anti-immigrant laws because they are unconstitutional, lead to racial profiling and widespread civil rights abuses,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued in court on behalf of the coalition. “This misguided law should be blocked before it causes great harm and turns South Carolina into a police state.”

The law, SB 20, subjects South Carolinians, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, to unlawful search and seizure and interferes with federal authority over immigration laws. 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, thereby inviting racial profiling. It criminalizes South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room to a friend.

“South Carolina must not become like Alabama, whose inhumane anti-immigrant law has created a crisis in the state, separated families and devastated the business community,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “This law will hurt all South Carolinians and must be blocked before it wreaks havoc in our state.”

Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 inspired South Carolina’s law, as well as similar laws in Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Indiana. Federal courts have already blocked key provisions of these laws in Arizona, Indiana and Georgia. A federal court in Alabama allowed some parts of the law to take effect, leading to devastating humanitarian consequences, while other provisions have been blocked. Coalition members also have a pending case against Utah’s anti-immigrant law, which the court delayed pending a hearing in February.

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, MALDEF, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.

To learn more about the case and read the complaint, as well as the motion for preliminary injunction, go to:….

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