A recently enacted anti-immigration law in South Carolina is unconstitutional, illegal, and opens the door to racial profiling, according to a lawsuit filed this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a coalition of civil rights groups.
The law, SB 20, includes the “reasonable suspicion” clause originated in Arizona’s SB 1070, and also mandates the creation of the state’s own immigration enforcement agency while criminalizing interactions with the undocumented by restricting their ability to enter contractual agreements or even their right to ride in cars. Despite protests from businesses in South Carolina, SB 20 requires that employers check the immigration status of new hires using the federal E-Verify system. The lawsuit charges that the law subjects South Carolinians to unlawful search and seizure and interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters.
“By requiring local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents, this law invites discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds ‘foreign,’ including American citizens and legal residents,” said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “It will make criminals out of good Samaritans, harm victims of crime and abuse, hamper police in preventing and solving crimes and create a climate of fear and prejudice in South Carolina.”
The coalition in the South Carolina case includes the ACLU, the ACLU of South Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the law firms of Rosen, Rosen & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm. The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center are also involved in challenging the constitutionality of recent anti-immigration laws passed in Georgia and Alabama.
“Over the last two weeks, South Carolina and the nation have watched the devastation caused when laws like this go into effect as families have fled Alabama, businesses have lost patrons and a climate of fear and hate have settled over the state,” said Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “These are the reasons we are continuing to fight against these hateful and clearly unconstitutional laws with this lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s own hateful measure.”