Federal court blocks most of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law

A federal court today blocked key provisions of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law and, by inviting additional legal challenges to civil rights abuses, recognized that harms could take place if police officers check people's immigration status.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is part of a coalition of groups that challenged the constitutionality of the law.

The ruling reaffirms a December 2011 ruling that blocked key sections of the law, including those that aimed to turn unlawful presence into a state crime and to criminalize everyday activities such as giving a ride or renting an apartment to an undocumented immigrant.

While today’s decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina in Charleston leaves room for implementation of a “show me your papers” provision, it invites future challenges when enforcement of that provision involves lengthy detentions and other civil rights issues.

“Today’s ruling sends a message that South Carolinians will not be criminalized for being good neighbors and that targeting people based solely on their race will not be tolerated,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer. “We are pleased that the court blocked some of the most harmful provisions of the state’s anti-immigrant law. We will remain vigilant during this critical time when the ‘papers please’ provision is implemented and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure no hateful or unconstitutional law is allowed to stand.”

The district court issued this latest decision in order to ensure that its prior December ruling was in line with the guidance provided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June in a case regarding Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070.

In addition to the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, NILC, SPLC and MALDEF, the coalition includes the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDF, Lloyd Law Firm, and Rosen, Rosen & Hagood.

Members of the coalition have also filed lawsuits against state anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Utah and Indiana. Courts have blocked major portions of these laws. In Alabama and Georgia, the U.S. Court for the Appeals for the 11th Circuit also recently blocked the transporting and harboring provisions.