After US Supreme Court decision, federal judge reviewing SC immigration law order

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COLUMBIA — A federal judge said Monday that he needs to revisit an order blocking South Carolina’s tough illegal immigration law now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned most of a similar Arizona law.

After a teleconference with attorneys, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he wants to reconsider his December ruling in which he blocked several provisions of South Carolina’s law from going into effect.

The federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union in December sued to block South Carolina’s law, which was modeled on Arizona’s. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned most of Arizona’s law but left intact a provision allowing authorities to ask about the citizenship status of people stopped for another reason when they suspect them of being in the country illegally.

The government and the ACLU challenged the constitutionality of South Carolina’s law, which included a status check provision similar to Arizona’s.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who is representing the state, originally asked that the entire law be allowed to take effect Jan. 1 while the lawsuit went forward, but Gergel turned him down.

Instead, the judge blocked several sections of the law. Among them are the status-check requirement and provisions that make it a state crime not to carry immigration paperwork or for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

But some provisions of the state law went into effect as scheduled Jan. 1, including a requirement that businesses check new hires’ legal status through a federal system.

State prosecutors appealed Gergel’s original decision. On Monday, Gergel said he would now need to reconsider that preliminary injunction, given the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The Court has carefully reviewed the Supreme Court’s Arizona decisions and finds that it raises ‘substantial issues’ regarding at least a portion of the Court’s preliminary injunction,” Gergel wrote. “A limited remand would allow the parties to fully brief and address these issues before the District Court.”

For now, state prosecutors have told South Carolina authorities to abide by the judge’s original order, which put the law’s enforcement on hold.

In late June, Wilson wrote to Public Safety Director Leroy Smith asking that his officers be made aware that, until the injunction in South Carolina is lifted, the status-check provision cannot be implemented.

Gergel also ordered state officials to file a report within 10 days on any negotiated agreements the State Law Enforcement Division had worked out with federal immigration authorities. Under South Carolina law, SLED’s chief is ordered to enter into the deals – known as 287(g) agreements – which train officers in immigration enforcement and enable them to identify and detain illegal immigrants.


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