Press Release

AALDEF Joins Civil Rights Groups in Brief Against South Carolina’s Repressive Immigration Law


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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a new immigration enforcement bill on June, 27, 2011 – Senate Bill (SB) 20 – designed to perpetuate unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has joined at least 15 other civil rights organizations in signing an amicus brief to prevent SB 20 from taking effect.

SB 20 requires every South Carolina police officer to check the immigration status of any stopped or detained persons about whose immigration status the officer has “reasonable suspicion.” It is clear that the predominant – if not sole — factors that will give rise to an officer’s “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an undocumented immigrant are skin color, language, and/or apparent national or ethnic origin.

Therefore, this law in effect requires that South Carolina police officers discriminate against people on the unconstitutional bases of race and national or ethnic origin. It will also force only immigrants and racial and ethnic minorities to carry around identification papers at all times, including proof of their U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status, to avoid being investigated and even detained.

The law has been dubbed a “copycat” of Arizona’s 2010 immigration enforcement bill, which was criticized by President Obama. On Oct. 12, civil rights organizations filed the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition lawsuit against the South Carolina version, and the U.S. Department of Justice followed with its own challenge on Oct. 31.

On Nov. 11, AALDEF signed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Lowcountry Immigration Coalition v. Haley. We firmly believe that that this law is not only unconstitutional for targeting large numbers of people based on their race or ethnicity who are not undocumented workers, but it will also put Asian Americans and other people of color in South Carolina at risk. They will be less likely to seek assistance from law enforcement and thus more likely to be victims of crime. Moreover, any law that so erodes the trust and communication between one group of people and law enforcement will result inmaking South Carolina more dangerous for every one of its residents.

Read the amicus brief here:

Brief in Support of Plaintiff’s Motion of Preliminary Injunction in _Lowcountry Immigration Coalition v. Haley (November 11, 2011)

For further information, please contact:
Ujala Sehgal
Communications Coordinator
212.966.5932 ex. 217

Image credit: Cliff1066/Flickr