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Latino Daily News

Thursday December 22, 2011

Federal Judge Blocks Part of South Carolina’s Immigration Law

Federal Judge Blocks Part of South Carolina’s Immigration Law

Photo: Federal Judge Blocks Part of sb20

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A mandate that police verify the immigration status of people they suspect are undocumented is one of several provisions of South Carolina’s immigration law that were blocked on Thursday by a federal judge.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in Charleston also bars the state from enforcing a requirement that people carry immigration documents at all times.

Likewise blocked for the moment is a provision that makes it a felony to transport or harbor undocumented immigrants.

The law, known as SB 20 or Act 69, is due to take effect Jan. 1.

“This is a triumph of the immigrant community,” Ivan Segura, a member of the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas, said after learning of Gergel’s decision.

The judge issued the 42-page ruling three days after hearing from attorneys representing the state of South Carolina and plaintiffs who filed suits challenging the law as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Gergel wrote that the South Carolina legislature’s unhappiness with the way the federal government enforces immigration law does not give the state the right to “adopt its own immigration policy to supplant the policy of the national government.”

“Judge Gergel demonstrated he knows the issue very well and he established a difference between the functions the states and the federal government have in the matter of immigration,” Eric Esquivel, a plaintiff in the suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, told Efe Thursday from the coastal resort town of Hilton Head.

Members of churches, human rights groups and pro-immigrant organizations held marches, rallies and prayer vigils across the state last Sunday in opposition to SB 20.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, signed the measure into law on July 27, after it passed both houses of the Republican-controlled South Carolina legislature.

SB 20 has much in common with Arizona’s SB 1070 and the Alabama law HB 56, both of which have had a devastating impact on immigrants and have hurt the states’ respective economies.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it will hear arguments on the Arizona law, the first of the anti-immigrant measures to be enacted and the first to be partially blocked by a federal judge in response to suits from the Justice Department and the ACLU.

One way that SB 20 differs from the Arizona and Alabama legislation is its call for the creation of a state immigration enforcement unit that would be the first of its kind in the nation.

South Carolina moved in 2008 to prohibit publicly supported universities and community colleges from accepting undocmented students.

An estimated 45,000 of South Carolina’s 235,000 Hispanics are thought to be undocumented immigrants.