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Settlement in South Carolina

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2014

CONTACT
Adela de la Torre, National Immigration Law Center, 213-400-7822, delatorre@nilc.org
Apreill Hartsfield, Southern Poverty Law Center, (334) 782-6624, apreill.hartsfield@splcenter.org
Isabel Alegria, American Civil Liberties Union, (415) 343-0785 or (646) 438-4146, media@aclu.org
Larry Gonzalez, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, (202) 466-0879, lgonzalez@rabengroup.com

Civil Rights Coalition Achieves Important Protections Against South Carolina’s Anti-Immigrant Law

CHARLESTON, SC — A civil rights coalition that challenged South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, Act 69 (also known as SB 20), announced today an agreement with the state that permanently blocks key provisions and provides strict limits on the “racial profiling” provisions of the law. The agreement was also entered into by the U.S. Department of Justice, effectively ending two consolidated lawsuits against Act 69 in the state.

The proposed settlement filed today, which is pending review by the court, will permanently block provisions that criminalize daily interactions with undocumented immigrants, similar to provisions permanently enjoined as a result of settlements in similar cases in Alabama and Georgia. The settlement also will prevent enforcement of a provision that would have imposed criminal penalties on those who fail to carry immigration documents.

A key component of the settlement agreement creates strict guidance for the provision of Act 20 which mandates that police demand “papers” of those who appear foreign. The proposed settlement includes a formal opinion from the state’s attorney general clarifying that state law does not authorize law enforcement to detain a person for any period of time to determine immigration status.

“After nearly three years, this ugly chapter in South Carolina’s civil rights history will finally come to a close,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Today’s settlement makes clear that South Carolinians, regardless of where they were born, can live free from fear that they will be detained by police simply to determine whether they are in this country without authorization. Other states can — and should — make such clarifications in their own laws.”

“The state has finally agreed to put to rest the most divisive provisions of South Carolina’s anti-immigrant law, which would have given local officials carte blanche to criminalize the lives of immigrants and those who interact with them,” said Andre Segura, attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We are especially pleased that the state has set forth clear limits on what its officers can and can’t do — none of its officers is permitted to prolong stops or detain individuals believed or even determined to be undocumented for any purpose. Constitutional rights apply to all, and no one is required to answer any question by state or local officials about their immigration status.”

The National Immigration Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and other civil rights groups filed the class action suit, Low Country Immigration Coalition v. Haley, in October 2011.

Amy Pedersen, staff attorney for MALDEF, said, “This settlement should turn South Carolina efforts spent defending a largely unconstitutional law toward ensuring that state and local officers undertake law enforcement not on the basis of individuals’ immigration status, real or perceived, but in line with our federal system of government and laws preserving freedom and individual liberties.”

The lawsuit charged that SB 20 subjected South Carolinians — including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents — to unlawful search and seizure and interfered with federal power and authority over immigration matters. The suit also asserted that the law unconstitutionally mandated police to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or immigration status during traffic stops when they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is not in the country lawfully, and criminalized South Carolinians for everyday interactions with undocumented individuals, such as driving someone to church or renting a room to a friend.

“Today is a victory for the brave community members who challenged SB 20 and for all South Carolinians,” said Michelle Lapointe, Southern Poverty Law Center staff attorney. “Three years ago, South Carolina became one of several southern states that attempted to legislate away people’s constitutional rights. We are glad that the most egregious portions of this mean-spirited law will be permanently blocked, and we will remain vigilant and will take action if immigration enforcement violates civil rights.”

More information about the case and settlement can be found at www.nilc.org/sb20.html.

Attorneys in the case include Tumlin, Linton Joaquin, Nora Preciado, Melissa Keaney, Nicolas Espiritu, and Alvaro Huerta of the National Immigration Law Center; Michelle Lapointe, Sam Brooke, Naomi Tsu, and Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Justin B. Cox, Andre Segura, Cecillia Wang, Omar C. Jadwat, Justin B. Cox, Lee Gelernt and Kate Desormeau of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; Amy Pedersen, Victor Viramontes and Martha L. Gomez, of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Foster S. Maer of LatinoJustice/PRLDEF; Tammy Besherse of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center; and Susan Dunn of the ACLU Foundation of South Carolina.

The proposed final judgment is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=1067.

The joint report regarding case status and disposition is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=1068.

The South Carolina solicitor general's opinion that is included in the settlement agreement is available at www.nilc.org/document.html?id=1069.

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