Last year, South Carolina lawmakers passed strict new laws directed at ridding the state of illegal immigrants, particularly those who commit crimes. The laws closely mirror the controversial ones passed first by Arizona, which were challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court by the federal government.
The federal government also challenged South Carolina's new immigration laws in late 2011, and a federal judge blocked many of them, finding that they were unconstitutional. Those laws were then barred from taking effect at the beginning of the year.
But now the federal judge said he will need to consider the laws again in light of the Supreme Court's decision regarding Arizona's laws. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court struck down much of Arizona's new immigration policy, but left perhaps the most controversial portion standing: The "show me your papers" provision.
This provision requires officers to check the immigration status of people they pull over if they suspect the person could be in the country illegally. Opponents of the provision say it leads to racial profiling and is unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court said there hasn't been enough proof of that as of yet.
In South Carolina, one part of the new immigration policy that was allowed to go into effect essentially created an immigration task force that investigates criminal cases involving illegal immigrants. According to a statement from the state's top law enforcement official last month, the unit has been successful thus far.
The law enforcement top official said the eight-person unit focuses on building criminal cases against illegal immigrants who are accused of breaking the law in the state. He said the unit, which is the only one in the country to operate throughout the entire state instead of by county, is responsible for numerous arrests, but would not say exactly how many.
Source: Associated Press, "SC immigration unit says it's been successful," Meg Kinnard, Oct. 24, 2012