Major parts of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, including a provision that would have forced drivers to prove they were citizens or legal residents at virtually all traffic stops, was blocked today by a federal judge.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups recently argued that the law, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, was unconstitutional, interferes with federal laws and would cause great harm if implemented.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel also said that sections of the law, including those making it a crime to transport and harbor undocumented immigrants and criminalizing the failure to carry “papers” at all times were also likely to be found unconstitutional.
“Today’s ruling blocking key provisions of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law recognizes that such legislation is unconstitutional and likely to lead to serious civil rights abuses,” said Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project who argued the case in court Monday on behalf of the coalition “We have already seen the devastating effects of a similar law in Alabama, and are pleased South Carolina will not follow the same destructive path.”
South Carolina’s law would have subjected citizens and legal residents, to unlawful searches and seizures and interfered with federal power and authority over immigration, Segura said.
The law would require police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person lacks immigration status, thereby inviting racial profiling. It also attempted to criminalize South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room, said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.
“The court’s ruling means this draconian law will not immediately threaten the safety of innocent people, including victims of domestic violence and human trafficking and even asylum seekers,” Middleton said. “We hope the ruling means families will not be separated and South Carolina will not be turned into a police state.”