Federal appeals court finds key portions of South Carolina anti-immigrant law should be blocked, SPLC case moves forward

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to block sections of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law today, allowing an SPLC case challenging the law to continue and to potentially block a section of the law that allows police to act as immigration agents and demand an individual’s “papers.”

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed preliminary injunctions blocking sections of the law that criminalized everyday interactions with undocumented immigrants, including acts of kindness, such as giving a person a ride. The appeals court also affirmed a lower court’s decision to block provisions regarding immigration and identification documents, such as a provision that required adults to carry such documents or face a state misdemeanor charge.

“Today’s decision closes a dark chapter in South Carolina,” said Sam Brooke, senior SPLC staff attorney. “The courts have consistently ruled that hate-filled state laws that try to drive an entire class of people from their borders will not be tolerated. Today’s ruling that South Carolina may not criminalize neighborly acts of kindness ensures that all people will be treated fairly under the law.  Today is a good day for all South Carolinians.”

The SPLC and a coalition of civil rights groups and advocates filed suit against the law in October 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice, which later challenged the law in court, also argued that it should be blocked because it interferes with federal immigration law.

The appeals court’s decision cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down much of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, which served as a model for the South Carolina law. It also cites the SPLC’s challenge to Georgia’s anti-immigrant law as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to a similar law in Alabama, which has been challenged by the SPLC.

The SPLC’s co-counsel in the South Carolina case include the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU of South Carolina, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the Lloyd Law Firm and Rosen, Rosen & Hagood.`