While justices rejected the provision of Arizona’s law allowing law enforcement to stop and question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, the court upheld the provision allowing officers to ask suspects already being detained to prove their immigration status.
“It’s kind of a win-lose for us,” said Sue Berkowitz of the Appleseed Legal Justice Center, one of the groups leading a lawsuit seeking to overturn South Carolina’s immigration law. A federal judge put the law on hold last year pending the Supreme Court’s review of the Arizona law.
Advocates like Berkowitz say there’s no realistic way South Carolina’s “Show Me Your Papers” law could be implemented without racially profiling Hispanics. “With [the law] in place, there’s still a serious concern that it’s a pretext for racial profiling,” said Berkowitz.
According to The State’s Noelle Phillips, the groups joining Appleseed in challenging South Carolina’s law agree:
Andre Segura, an ACLU attorney who argued against S.C. law in federal court, said South Carolina’s law is written so that once police detain a person, they can hold him as long as necessary to determine legal status.
Michelle Lapointe, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center who represented clients in the suit against South Carolina, said the door has been opened for civil rights lawsuits.
“The court left open the door to challenges,” Lapointe said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think the court recognized how these laws play out on the ground.”
Justices did strike down provisions making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to look for work, as well as criminalizing the “willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document.” South Carolina’s similar law will also be struck down by that ruling.
Still, the South Carolina Victims Assistance Network’s Tricia Ravenhorst said she’s “deeply concerned” about how the Show Me Your Papers law will affect victims of violent crime.
“Any involvement of local law enforcement in immigration has a chilling effect on victims of violent crime coming forward,” commented Ravenhorst, who said victims or witnesses of violent crime will be much less willing to cooperate with local police if they know they risk being deported.
Groups like Appleseed and SC VAN hope they can convince District Judge Richard Gergel that the fundamental flaws in the Show Me Your Papers law go beyond the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Arizona law. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has asked Gergel to allow the implementation of the Palmetto State’s immigration law now that SCOTUS has ruled.
Look for updates to this story as they develop.