By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C., Nov 15 (Reuters) - A federal district
judge on Thursday ruled that South Carolina police could check
the immigration status of anybody they stop, but kept a ban on
other parts of a new state immigration law pending a challenge
in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Republican-led legislature passed the law last year to
crack down on illegal immigration, but civil rights groups
challenged its constitutionality in federal court, arguing that
it invited racial profiling and interfered with U.S. law.
In December, 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel put
the law, including a provision that criminalize the harboring or
transporting of an illegal alien, on hold while the nation's
highest court heard a challenge to similar laws in Arizona.
In June, the Supreme Court struck down much of that law as
unconstitutional but left in place a provision allowing police
to check the immigration status of people who were stopped for
In upholding the legality of the South Carolina immigration
checks, Gergel said on Thursday the Supreme Court had concluded
in the Arizona case that the state could require its officials
to contact federal immigration and customs officers as a routine
But he continued to block other parts of the law, writing in
the ruling that the state had no right to require a person to
carry an alien registration card or to criminalize someone's
unlawful presence in the United States.
Those laws infringe on "a comprehensive federal statutory
scheme and would interfere with the federal government's
supremacy in the realm of immigration," he wrote.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican,
hailed the decision. "Police officers and sheriff's deputies now
have an important tool to assist them in doing their job and
protecting South Carolinians," he said.
The ruling came as President Barack Obama and fellow
Democrats try to revive efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration
laws. Some Republicans have expressed willingness to consider
such a move in the wake of the Nov. 6 election, in which
Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Obama.
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