South Carolina asks delay in immigration law hearing
Wants to wait for U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Arizona law
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Web Producer: Laura Kittell
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina asked a federal judge on Thursday to let the state's tough new immigration law go into effect next month while the U.S. Supreme Court rules on an Arizona law that is nearly identical.
The Justice Department and civil rights groups have sued in federal court in Charleston to block the law from taking effect New Year's Day.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and the state ask the judge in their motion to stay or suspend the court proceedings until the high court rules on the Arizona case. It the stay is approved, the law would take effect.
The law, similar to ones in Alabama, Utah, Indiana and Georgia, requires police to check the immigration status of suspects they detain.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this week to review a federal appeals court ruling blocking several provisions of the Arizona law, including one requiring police, while enforcing other laws, to question a person's immigration status if officers suspect they are in the country illegally.
The Obama administration has argued regulating immigration is the job of the federal government, not states.
The South Carolina motion says the Arizona case and a Medicaid case from California, which the high court has also agreed to hear, will provide guidance on the federal Supremacy Clause - a clause in the Constitution that holds that federal laws are the highest laws of the land.
"A ruling by the Supreme Court in Arizona is likely to resolve most or all of the issues" in the South Carolina case, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote in the motion. It added it "would be an understatement" to say the issues before the high court are of importance to the South Carolina case.
Staying the case would save legal costs and "avoid any rulings that may need to be modified as a result of decisions by the United States Supreme Court." The motion also asks the immigration law be allowed to take effect during a stay.
"South Carolina has a right to implement this law and protect itself while this important matter is being considered by the highest court in the land," Wilson said. "We have asked the judge to defer to the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby letting our law go into effect as scheduled."
A hearing on a request by the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction blocking the law is set for Monday in Charleston before U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel.
According to a court scheduling order, a total of three hours have been set aside for both sides to argue their cases.
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