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South Carolina judge questions certain parts of immigration law

We have been writing frequently about the controversial immigration law that was adopted in South Carolina earlier this year and is now being challenged by the federal government along with immigrant and civil-rights groups.

Essentially, South Carolina lawmakers said that they were fed up with federal lawmakers failing to take a stand on the issue and decided to take matters into their own hands, following the lead of Arizona and in the company of Alabama and Utah.

All of these states adopted controversial immigration policy that, for one, requires police officers to ask suspected illegal immigrants for proof of citizenship during traffic stops. Opponents of the law say that it is unconstitutional and will lead to racial profiling.

The federal government claims that the law violates its authority as being the sole regulator of immigration policy. The country has an interest in having uniform laws when it comes to immigration, the federal government is arguing.

Allowing individual states to pass their own immigration laws also hinders foreign relations, the federal government said in a brief filed in the lawsuit against the South Carolina law.

During a hearing on Monday, the U.S. District judge handling the case indicated that the South Carolina law will likely not be blocked in whole, but there are certain parts that could be ruled void.

The judge did seem to take issue with the provision that that requires police to check immigration status during traffic stops and another that requires all immigrants to carry their immigration paperwork with them at all times.

The judge also criticized a portion of the law that makes being in the country illegally a crime. This would allow illegal immigrants to be held in jail for the sole purpose of their illegal status. Currently, it is considered a civil violation.

"We're going to pull them over on the way to the Piggly Wiggly and put them in jail?" the judge questioned. "Come on. This is in direct conflict with federal law."

Of course, the judge himself pointed out that he will not likely have the final say on the issue. The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case against Arizona's law in 2012, and its decision would directly apply to the South Carolina law as well.

Source: The State, "Immigration: U.S. judge focuses on a 'few' areas," Noelle Phillips, Dec. 20, 2011

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