COLUMBIA — Several portions of South Carolina’s immigration law are still blocked from going into effect, according to a ruling issued Tuesday from a federal appeals court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling barring certain provisions from the 2011 law, including those that would make it a state crime not to carry immigration paperwork or for people in the country illegally to house or transport themselves.

Those portions, the court wrote, inappropriately criminalize activity that should be left up to the federal government to regulate.

“They make criminals out of aliens attempting to do no more than go to school, go to work, and care for their families,” the court wrote.

The new law – modeled after similar legislation in Arizona and considered among the toughest in the nation – has been in litigation ever since it was passed by the state Legislature. The federal government and civil liberties groups quickly challenged the law, saying in a 2011 lawsuit that portions including a provision allowing police to check people’s immigration status were unconstitutional.

Some business-related parts of the law went into effect in January 2012, including a requirement that businesses check new hires’ legal status through a federal system. South Carolina’s lawsuit was put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a legal challenge to Arizona’s law.

At that time, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel blocked several provisions, including the status check provision, as well as policies that would make it a state crime not to carry immigration paperwork or for people who are in the country illegally to transport or house themselves.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled much of the Arizona law unconstitutional – but kept the status check provision in place – Gergel revised his ruling, allowing a similar portion of South Carolina’s law to take effect but continuing to block the paperwork and transportation provisions.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the 4th Circuit to review that decision, which the higher court upheld Tuesday. His office said the Republican was studying the decision and reviewing his options.


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