WASHINGTON — A court on Thursday blocked key provisions of a controversial new immigration law by the southeastern US state of South Carolina, less than two weeks before it was to take effect.
Judge Richard Gergel of the South Carolina circuit ruled that some terms of the law locally known as Act 69, conflict with US federal immigration authority, and as such struck them down. The law was to take effect January 1.
Among the terms the judge rejected were making it a crime to be in the state without proper legal immigration documentation, and allowing local police to check the immigration status of anyone they have detained and suspect may be undocumented migrants.
“The Court hereby grants the motions for preliminary injunction regarding Sections 4, 5 and 6 of Act 69,” Gergel’s ruling says.
Another section the government opposed was not blocked; it makes it a crime locally to produce or sell false identification documents.
Gergel explained in his ruling that South Carolina’s concerns about federal government implementation of US immigration laws nonetheless do “not entitle the state of South Carolina to adopt its own immigration policy to supplant the policy of the national government.”
The law in South Carolina was signed in June by Governor Nikki Haley — the daughter of immigrants from India.
President Barack Obama’s government has taken on local immigration-related laws in four US states.
Last week the Supreme Court said it would take up Arizona’s, called SB 1070, which for the first time made it a local crime to be an undocumented migrant in a US state.
Many in the United States believes that the country, with some 11 million undocumented migrants, sorely needs national immigration reform, which Obama has said he will try to pursue if he is re-elected.
Opposing flexibility on immigration politically can be very thorny in the United States, where most people are either descended from immigrants or are immigrants themselves.
But with the economy sputtering and unemployment high, many conservatives argue immigrants take jobs away from American workers. Opponents however maintain US workers simply will not do the toughest of jobs — like farm work and meat processing — commonly taken by migrants in the country illegally.