Civil Rights Coalition Asks Court to Block SB 20

December 19, 2011

Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; [email protected]

Civil Rights Coalition Asks Court to Block South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law

Attorneys Argued in Federal Court Today That Law Would Cause Harm;
Judge Said He Will Rule Before Jan. 1

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups asked a federal district judge today to block South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Jan. 1 because it is unconstitutional, interferes with federal laws and would cause great harm in the state.

The coalition filed a lawsuit against the law, SB 20, in October. A court hearing regarding a motion for preliminary injunction – which seeks to temporarily block the law pending a final ruling on its constitutionality – was held today. The U.S. Department of Justice, which also filed a lawsuit against the law, also argued today that the law should be blocked. The judge said he will rule on the motion before the law’s Jan. 1 effective date.

Andre Segura, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued in court on behalf of the coalition, said: “Across the country, we have been fighting anti-immigrant laws because they are unconstitutional, lead to racial profiling and widespread civil rights abuses. This misguided law should be blocked before it causes great harm and turns South Carolina into a police state.”

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, said: “South Carolina must not become like Alabama, whose inhumane anti-immigrant law has created a crisis in the state, separated families and devastated the business community. This law will hurt all South Carolinians and must be blocked before it wreaks havoc in our state.”

Michelle Lapointe, Southern Poverty Law Center’s lead attorney on the case, said: “If this law goes into effect at the end of this month, the devastating impact will be immediate and irreparable. The experience of other states has made it clear the devastating social and economic upheaval of such laws.”

Linton Joaquin, general counsel of NILC, said: “Immigrant and Latino communities across the state can look forward to a ruling from the court before the law’s implementation date of January 1.  We cannot understate the devastation and chaos created by the implementation of these laws as we have witnessed in Alabama. We will continue to fight until this law is permanently blocked.”

Victor Viramontes, MALDEF national senior counsel, said: MALDEF issued the following statement: “We have asked the Court to block South Carolina’s destructive law that unfairly and illegally targets the Latino community with improper arrests and detentions. Together with Arizona, Alabama and others, South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law threatens to create a patchwork immigration policy divorced from the Federal Government’s uniform immigration system.”

LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Senior Counsel Diana Sen said: ”Latino immigrants continue to get unfairly blamed for all that ails our economy. This race based demonization has no place in our post segregation world. If unchecked, Latinos will be subjected to intensive status verifications every time they cross the street, and become the new second class citizenry, an outcome abhorrent to anyone mindful of our country’s past.”

SB 20 subjects South Carolinians, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, to unlawful search and seizure and interferes with federal authority over immigration laws. The law requires 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 criminalizes South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church, or renting a room to a friend.

Arizona’s SB 1070 inspired South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, as well as similar laws in Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Indiana. Federal courts have already blocked key provisions of these laws in Arizona, Indiana and Georgia. A federal court in Alabama allowed some parts of the law to take effect, leading to devastating humanitarian consequences, while other provisions have been blocked. Coalition members also have a pending case against Utah’s anti-immigrant law, which the court delayed pending a hearing in February.

The coalition in the South Carolina case includes the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, MALDEF, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.

Learn more about the case and read the complaint, as well as the motion for preliminary injunction.

Read decision (updated 12/22/11)

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