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DOJ Files Suit Against South Carolina’s Anti-immigrant Law

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Stop Targeting Immigrants South CarolinaThe United States Department of Justice is seeking to block South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law. This marks the third challenge to a state immigration law by DOJ. The others are Arizona and Alabama. From yesterday’s DOJ press release:

The Department of Justice challenged South Carolina’s recently passed immigration law, Act No. 69, in federal court today.

In a complaint, filed in the District of South Carolina, the department states that certain provisions of Act No. 69, as enacted by the state on June 27, 2011, are unconstitutional and interfere with the federal government’s authority to set and enforce immigration policy, explaining that “the Constitution and federal law do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country.” South Carolina’s law clearly conflicts with the policies and priorities adopted by the federal government and therefore cannot stand. 

South Carolina’s law is designed to further criminalize unauthorized immigrants and, like the Arizona and Alabama laws, expands the opportunity for police to push unauthorized immigrants towards incarceration for various new immigration crimes by enforcing an immigration status verification system. Similar to Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and Alabama’s H.B. 56, this law will place significant burdens on federal agencies, diverting their resources away from high-priority targets, such as terrorism, drug smuggling and gang activity, and those with criminal records. In addition, the law’s mandates on law enforcement will also result in the harassment and detention of foreign visitors and legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, who cannot readily prove their lawful status. 

“Today’s lawsuit makes clear once again that the Justice Department will not hesitate to challenge a state’s immigration law, as we have in Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina, if we find that the law interferes with the federal government’s enforcement of immigration,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “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. We will continue to monitor the impact these laws might have on our communities and will evaluate each law to determine whether it conflicts with the federal government’s enforcement responsibilities.”

And, we learn via The State that South Carolina is going to be fighting hard to preserve its discriminatory and racist law:

State Attorney General Alan Wilson has vowed to defend the state’s immigration laws to Supreme Court if necessary. On Monday, his office said the attorney general could not comment on the justice department’s lawsuit because it had not received it.

South Carolina’s immigration law, which was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley in June, requires all police officers to verify the immigration status of anyone they detain whether it is for a speeding ticket or a murder charge. The law also creates a statewide Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit under the supervision of the S.C. Department of Public Safety, which also oversees the highway patrol.

Last week, FOX News Latino reported that the new SC law also impacts U.S. citizens and legal residents:

South Carolina’s new immigration law, SB 20, which faces a lawsuit from pro-immigrant organizations, will not only affect undocumented foreigners but also U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Puerto Rico-born Carolina Belen de Paguada is concerned about the possible entry into force of the controversial law, which was inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070 legislation.

Married to an undocumented Honduran, Belen says that even she is in danger of being penalized with a fine of up to $5,000 for transporting a foreigner without authorization to be in the country, or even for giving a neighbor a ride to church.

“My husband is the supporter of the family. I have a 4-month-old baby. If they deport him, I don’t know what we’re going to do. The situation is terrible for everyone,” the 20-year-old told Efe.