FOURTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS UPHOLDS DECISION TO BLOCK KEY PORTION OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA’S ARIZONA COPYCAT ANTI-IMMIGRANT LAW

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on July 23rd affirmed a lower court’s decision to block key components of SB 20, South Carolina’s Arizona-style anti-immigrant law. As a result, provisions of the law that would have criminalized daily interactions with immigrants present without status, as well as provisions pertaining to use of identification and registration immigration documents will remain blocked.

The court also determined that plaintiffs in the civil rights coalition’s lawsuit had the right to use the state over its law.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF and a coalition of civil rights groups and advocates filed a lawsuit against the law in October 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice, which later filed its own lawsuit, also argued that the law should be blocked because it will cause irreparable harm and interfere with federal immigration law.

“This unanimous ruling strongly affirms the right of all people to remain free from harassment and persecution by state officials on immigration-related grounds, and confirms that South Carolina’s attempt to criminalize the lives of immigrants and those who interact with them every day is simply unconstitutional,” said Andre Segura, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “This divisive law is clearly contrary to American values, particularly in light of our nation’s call for fair and humane immigration reform. South Carolina should work to unite, not divide, its residents.”

“Today’s decision isn’t just a victory for civil rights, it’s also for our plaintiffs, who took a brave stand against racial profiling in their state,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, who argued the case. “The decision also underscores the need for the U.S. House of Representatives to follow in the Senate’s footsteps and finally create a moral, accountable, and effective immigration system. Until then, we will continue to fight to ensure that immigrants and others are not discriminated against simply because of the way they look or speak.”

“The decision closes a dark chapter in South Carolina,” said Sam Brooke, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The courts have consistently ruled that hate-filled state laws that try to drive an entire class of people form their borders will not be tolerated. Today’s ruling that South Carolina may not criminalize neighborly acts of kindness like giving a person a ride further ensures that all people will be treated fairly under the law.”

The coalition in the South Carolina case includes Latinojustice PRLDEF, the ACLU, Immgrants’ Rights Project (IRP), MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the ACLU of South Carolina, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, and the law firms of Rosen, Rose, & Hagood and the Lloyd Law Firm.

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