- (Photo: AP Images / Ralph Freso)
South Carolina’s strict new immigration law is being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice under the claim that it undermines federal authority.
A lawsuit was filed Monday that seeks to stop the implementation of the law that is scheduled to go into effect in January. The legislation requires law enforcement to call federal immigration officials if they believe someone is in the country illegally. The state law official may only check immigration status after the person has been stopped for something else, for example, speeding. The legislation also requires that business owners check the legal status of newly hired employees.
But the federal government is calling foul.
"The Justice Department has many important tasks and two of the most important tasks it has are defending the Constitution and ensuring equality for all citizens," said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles, according to the McClatchy Newspapers.
The defendant is South Carolina’s Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley. Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants and believes the law is within her state’s rights.
"As the daughter of immigrants who came to this country legally, Governor Haley understands that no American value is more sacred than the rule of law. That's what this is about, nothing more, nothing less," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey told Politico.com.
"If the Feds were doing their job, we wouldn't have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level. But, until they do, we're going to keep fighting in South Carolina to be able to enforce our laws."
On the other hand, the Justice Department released a statement saying:
“The Constitution and federal law do not permit the development of a patchwork of state and local immigration policies throughout the country."
"South Carolina's law clearly conflicts with the policies and priorities adopted by the federal government and therefore cannot stand.”
U.S. Assistant Attorney General Tony West said the law crosses the constitutional line. According to the McClatchy Newspapers, West says that a good indication of the illegality of the bill is based on Haley’s own statements at the signing ceremony. Haley said the intent of the law “was to make sure illegal immigrants find another state to go to.”
West said this kind of thinking creates more problems, not solutions.
"A patchwork of state and local immigration laws and policies simply is not the answer," he said.
The Justice Department states that this will encourage racial profiling. However, South Carolina lawmakers have told reporters that the law does not violate anyone’s civil rights because it is designed to prohibit racial profiling.
"We welcome the federal government’s decision to join the fight against yet another state anti-immigrant law," Andre Segura, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrants' Rights Project told The Christian Post in an email. ACLU is helping to spearhead the lawsuit.
"These discriminatory and unconstitutional laws have no place in our country and must be blocked in South Carolina and in every other state that makes the costly mistake of passing one. Alabama is now seeing some destructive results after parts of its anti-immigrant law took effect, and South Carolina must not follow the same path."
The Justice Department did not return phone calls by The Christian Post for comments.