By MEG KINNARD Associated Press
March 3, 2014
March 3, 2014.Columbia.The Post & Courier. By Meg Kinnard. South Carolina prosecutors have acknowledged that their defense of several parts of the state's immigration law likely will not succeed, according to documents filed in court Monday.
It's now up to a federal judge to approve the agreement, in which plaintiffs including the federal government and the American Civil Liberties Union also agree to drop their remaining challenges to the law.
Those groups sued after the state Legislature approved the sweeping legislation, which was modeled after similar measures in Arizona and among the stiffest in the country. The lawsuit said portions of the South Carolina law, including a provision allowing police to check people's immigration status, were unconstitutional.
Some business-related parts of the law went into effect in 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 Arizona's law, ultimately nixing much of it but leaving the status check in place.
In South Carolina, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said the state's status check provision could take effect but blocked most other parts of the law. Last summer, an appeals court ruled some of South Carolina's law inappropriately criminalized activity that should be up to the federal government to regulate, and state Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would weigh his legal options.
Remaining sections still in dispute include how to deal with crime suspects who officers think might be in the country illegally. In Monday's filing, the state reiterated its disagreement with previous court decisions putting those parts of the law on hold but acknowledged that continuing to challenge them would likely net the same result.
The defendants "have vigorously defended the challenged parts of Act 69, and join in this report only in recognition that the courts have ruled regarding these sections of the act and that further litigation of this matter would be inconsistent with those rulings and would be contrary to judicial economy," state prosecutors wrote.
The court filing also includes an attorney general's opinion requested by Gergel on those sections of the law. In that document, prosecutors said one provision "does not permit officers to prolong the original stop based upon the officer's inquiry into or based on a determination, suspicion, or admission concerning a person's immigration status."
Another disputed section of the law, prosecutors wrote, "does not authorize prolonging the detention of a person in jail or prison simply to determine the person's immigration status."
In a release, ACLU attorney Andre Segura said he was pleased with South Carolina's official interpretation of both parts of the law.
"The state has finally agreed to put to rest the most divisive provisions of South Carolina's anti-immigrant law, which would have given local officials carte blanche to criminalize the lives of immigrants and those who interact with them," Segura said. "Constitutional rights apply to all and no one is required to answer any question by state or local officials about their immigration status."