CHARLESTON — South Carolina’s immigration law, considered among the nation’s toughest before the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out much of the Arizona law upon which it was modeled, is going back before a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel, who blocked most of the South Carolina law from taking effect last December, holds a hearing today in Charleston.
The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that much of the Arizona law was unconstitutional, tossing out provisions making it a state crime not to carry immigration papers and for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves. South Carolina’s law had similar provisions.
But Gergel also blocked a section of the South Carolina law allowing police to check the immigration status of those they pull over if officers suspect they are in the country illegally. The Supreme Court let a similar provision in the Arizona law stand.
Gergel said in court papers filed last summer that his order blocking the South Carolina law’s enforcement needs to be revised in the wake of the high court decision.
Attorneys for the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union sued last December challenging the constitutionality of South Carolina’s law.
Other sections of the law took effect, among them the requirement that businesses check the legal status of new employees through a federal system.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, representing the state, had asked that the entire law be allowed to go into effect Jan. 1 while the lawsuit went forward. But Gergel turned down that request.
Officers would not be able to check the immigration status of those they stop until Gergel’s order was changed, regardless of how the Supreme court ruled, Wilson wrote in a June letter to Public Safety Director Leroy Smith.