On October 12, 2011, South Carolina, the state with the fastest-growing immigrant population over the past decade, according to the Migration Policy Institute, has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”) and a coalition of civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center due to the state’s new immigration law challenging the law’s constitutionality and arguing it invites racial profiling. The above groups are pushing for the law to be quashed before it can be implemented. The South Carolina law is similar to laws in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama, which also faced a barrage of lawsuits from immigrant rights groups, including the coalition that is suing South Carolina.
Key provisions of South Carolina’s law, which goes into effect January 1, 2011 require police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if they suspect the person might be in the country illegally (the standard required is “reasonable suspicion”). The law also makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant.
Presently, South Carolina law S.B. 20 has not been challenged by the Department of Justice, although the agency is reviewing to determine whether it interferes with federal law enforcement efforts.
Note that the Alabama and Arizona laws led to challenges from the Department of Justice. Most provisions of Arizona law S.B. 1070 were blocked on June 28, 2010, one day before the law was set to go into effect. However, attempts to block Alabama’s H.B. 46 immigration enforcement law before its implementation date were unsuccessful. That said, DOJ lawyers appealed to federal courts last week to prevent its enforcement.