Federal Government Sues to Block South Carolina Immigration Law

The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit challenging the stringent immigration reforms passed in South Carolina last June.

In challenging South Carolina’s Act No. 96, the DoJ made many of the same arguments it put forward when taking on hard-line immigration laws passed by Arizona and Alabama.

The government’s suit contends the South Carolina law usurps federal authority over immigration matters and compromises federal immigration enforcement strategies. For example, the suit states that a provision granting local law enforcement officers the right to question people about their citizenship status during traffic stops will erode the trust between the immigrant community and authorities. This provision could also lead to racial profiling that would result in “the harrassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens,” the DoJ asserted.

Expressing her support of Act No. 96, Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley – the daughter of Indian immigrants – pointed to her own life as an example of how immigrants can improve their lives while adhering to U.S. laws.

Other South Carolina lawmakers said the federal government has dropped the ball on immigration enforcement, compelling states to take action. This was a point that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seemed to concede.

Holder stated, “It is understandable that communities remain frustrated with the broken immigration system, but a patchwork of state laws is not the solution and will only create problems.”

The federal government recently appealed a September ruling by an Alabama judge that upheld most of that state’s immigration law. That law included a provision requiring schools to determine the immigration status of students. A week after the law took effect, the absentee rate for Hispanic students in the state nearly doubled, Politico reported.