United States District Judge Richard Mark Gergel just handed down a preliminary injunction blocking several key parts of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law. The provisions blocked by Judge Gergel’s opinion include:
- Papers Please: The SC law makes it unlawful for immigrants to fail to carry immigration papers. This provision is now blocked under Judge Gergel’s order. Additionally, Judge Gergel’s order suspends a provision prohibiting immigrants from presenting fake immigration papers to law enforcement.
- No Rides For Undocumented Immigrants: The SC law makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to “transport, move or attempt to transport” an undocumented immigrant “with intent to further that person’s unlawful entry into the United States” or to help that person avoid detection by authorities. This provision is now blocked.
- No Shelter For Undocumented Immigrants: Finally, the provision of the SC law making it a felony to “conceal, harbor or shelter” an immigrant for the same purposes forbidden under the provision prohibiting transportation is also blocked.
Judge Gergel’s opinion hews closely to longstanding precedents establishing that the federal government — and not the states — must be in charge of our nation’s immigration policy. For this reason, it is an important reaffirmation of the fact that America has one policy towards foreign nationals, just like it has one policy toward trade with China or one policy towards war with Iraq, not fifty different foreign policies for fifty different states.
Moreover, while Gergel leaves some parts of the law in effect, it is possible that more provisions of the law could be struck down at a future date. Although a challenge brought by several immigrant rights groups challenged the entire law, Gergel found that they did not have legal standing to bring such a broad challenge. Accordingly, he did not reach the merits of the question of whether the entire law is unconstitutional, and a future lawsuit could do so.