Bloomberg News

South Carolina Immigration Law Challenged by U.S. in Lawsuit

November 01, 2011

(Updates with Haley spokesman’s comment in the fifth paragraph.)

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- South Carolina’s new immigration law is unconstitutional and should be declared invalid, the U.S. Justice Department claimed in a lawsuit.

“South Carolina’s law clearly conflicts with the policies and priorities adopted by the federal government and therefore cannot stand,” the Justice Department said today as it announced the filing in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley in June, the state legislature’s Act No. 69 criminalizes an immigrant’s failure to carry a certificate of registration and requires law enforcement agents with reasonable suspicion to determine whether a person is lawfully in the U.S.

“This state can no longer afford those who don’t come here the right way and we are now going to do something about it,” Haley, a Republican in her first term in office, said in a June 27 press statement.

“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,” said Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Haley. “If the feds were doing their job, we wouldn’t have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level.”

Setting Policy

The new measures, which take effect on Jan. 1, will impose “significant and counterproductive burdens” on the U.S., which has legal preeminence in setting immigration policy, according to the complaint.

The Justice Department has won U.S. appeals court orders blocking parts of an Alabama immigration law and, earlier this year, an Arizona measure.

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West, in a telephone press conference, said the Justice Department is also studying new immigration enforcement measures in Indiana, Georgia and Utah.

Creating a patchwork of immigration laws is not only unconstitutional, West said, “it ultimately creates more problems than it solves.”

The case is U.S. v. State of South Carolina, U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina (Charleston).

--Editors: Fred Strasser, Mary Romano

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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