S.C. immigration law faces scrutiny from federal judge

The State (Columbia, S.C.)December 19, 2011 

The federal government squares off against South Carolina this morning as it asks a federal judge to stop the state’s immigration law from taking effect Jan. 1.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel begins at 10 a.m. in Charleston.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the state in October, saying the law undermined federal authority. The department argues that the U.S. government is the only entity that can create immigration policy and that the state’s law could result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors, legal immigrants and U.S. citizens.

The state disagrees.

The justice department has filed similar suits against Arizona, Alabama and Utah. Federal judges in Arizona and Alabama had differing opinions on the cases.

Last week, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion asking Gergel to suspend the lawsuit after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Arizona case, saying South Carolina’s law is similar.

South Carolina’s law, which was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley in June, requires all police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they detain, whether it is for a speeding ticket or a murder charge. The law also creates a statewide Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit under the supervision of the S.C. Department of Public Safety, which also oversees the Highway Patrol.

The law also allows S.C. residents to sue public officials if they think they are not enforcing the law. And it creates a felony charge for people who are in the country illegally.

Another lawsuit against the state was filed in October by a coalition of immigrants-rights organizations. It is pending.

To read more, visit www.thestate.com.

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