Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of South Carolina Immigration Measures

Enforcement of South Carolina’s immigration law, which was to take effect Jan. 1, was blocked by a federal court at the request of the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel said the U.S. is likely to succeed in its challenge to three sections of the law, according to a filing today in court in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The Constitution of the USA and the Immigration and Nationality Act have placed the policy-making role regarding immigration in the hands of the national government,” Gergel said in his order.

The measure criminalizes an immigrant’s failure to carry a certificate of registration and requires police who suspect someone is in the U.S. unlawfully to verify the person’s legal status. The federal government sued on Oct. 31, saying the law would impose “significant and counterproductive burdens” on the U.S.

“Alien registration is a field under the exclusive control of the federal government,” Gergel wrote.

People Who Jaywalk

Allowing state law enforcement officers to conduct inquiries could lead to the arrests of people who jaywalk or have cars with burned-out tail-lights, Gergel said, which would “burden and disrupt federal immigration enforcement efforts” to find illegal immigrants with criminal profiles.

The state’s attorney general, Alan Wilson, this month asked the judge to allow the law to take effect until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on Arizona’s immigration law. “The two laws are nearly identical,” Wilson said.

Mark Plowden, a spokesman for Wilson, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on today’s ruling.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, said the agency is pleased with the order

Gergel also said that enforcement of the state’s law could “generate tensions with foreign nations and retaliation against American nationals abroad.”

The state of Alabama is fighting a federal challenge to its immigration law. The state asked a U.S. appeals court in Atlanta to halt the case pending the Supreme Court’s review of Arizona’s law, which also requires local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect may be in the U.S. illegally.

The case is U.S. v. State of South Carolina, 11-2958, U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina (Charleston).

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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