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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Unions Challenge S.C. Immigration Law

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - South Carolina's tough new immigration law, set to take effect Jan. 1, is unconstitutional and invites police to engage in racial profiling, seven civil rights groups and unions say in a federal complaint.

Lead plaintiff Lowcountry Immigration Coalition and others, including the Service Employees International Union, challenged SB 20, which mirrors repressive measures in other states, some of which have been enjoined.

South Carolina's law requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest if they suspect the person might be in the country illegally. It also makes it a crime for any South Carolina resident to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant.

"Individuals perceived as 'foreign' by state or local law enforcement agents will be in constant jeopardy of harassment and unlawfully prolonged detention and arrest," according to the 62-page complaint. "Under SB 20, all South Carolinians will be required to carry state-approved identity documentation in order to prevent lengthy investigations into their immigrant status."

The groups say the state law also infringes on the federal government's power to handle immigration matters.

The lawsuit comes two weeks after a similar law in Alabama was upheld by U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn.

In her 115-page opinion, Blackburn blocked certain provisions of the Alabama law, including one that made it illegal to harbor or transport an illegal immigrant, but allowed other provisions to stand, including immigration checks at routine traffic stops.

The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing that ruling.

If South Carolina's law is allowed to go into effect, it "will subject South Carolinians - including U.S. citizens and noncitizens with permission from the federal government to remain in the United States - to criminal penalties and incarceration for humanitarian daily activities, such as giving a ride to a neighbor, family member, client, or fellow congregant, or for opening their homes to individuals, including individuals in need," the complaint states.

Plaintiffs include Mujeres De Triunfo, Nuevos Caminos, the S.C. Victim Assistance Network, the Hispanic Leadership Council, the Southern Regional Joint Board of Workers United, and six individuals, three of them Does.

They seek declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the Constitution's supremacy clause and the 4th and 14th Amendments.

They are represented by Susan K. Dunn of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, with a host of co-counsel from across the nation.

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