The U.S. Supreme Court's June 25 ruling on Arizona's immigration law appeared
to uphold part of a related South Carolina law -- a requirement allowing
police to check the immigration status of people stopped for traffic offenses
or other reasons.
But it remains unclear when South Carolina law enforcement officers will get the green light to enforce it.
The state's law faces a legal challenge, and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel had prevented parts of it from taking effect on Jan. 1. The state appealed his decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Gergel held a status conference Monday by phone, then issued an order saying last month's Supreme Court ruling raises "substantial issues" regarding his Dec. 19 injunction. He also said his reconsidering that injunction could refine the legal issues on appeal before the higher court.
However, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson opposed the idea that part of the case be sent to a lower court, Wilson's spokesman Mark Plowden said Monday.
"We believe that the appeal needs to remain at the 4th Circuit so that the Court of Appeals can determine all issues at one time rather than have them go back to the District Court and then back up again on appeal," he said.
Last year, South Carolina's Legislature passed an immigration bill modeled on Arizona's that requires all law enforcement officers to call the federal immigration office if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.
The question must follow an arrest or traffic stop for something else, and officers may not hold someone solely on that suspicion.
Two days after the Supreme Court ruled in the Arizona case, Wilson wrote to S.C. Public Safety Director Leroy Smith to say that ruling doesn't change the situation here as far as Gergel's injunction.
Some parts of the state law did take effect on Jan. 1, including a requirement that businesses check the legal status of a new hire through a federal system.
Gergel also directed the State Law Enforcement Division to report back in 10 days regarding any agreement the state has worked out with federal immigration authorities on how its officers are trained in immigration enforcement.
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