The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a lower court's decision to block components of South Carolina's immigration law [SB 20 text]. Relying on the Supremacy Clause, the court ruled that the plaintiffs have an implied right of action to seek injunctive relief from the act on federal preemption grounds. The court also ruled that plaintiffs need not wait to be arrested under the challenged sections of the act before they can assert a constitutional claim, stating that "they need not live under a cloud of 'prolonged uncertainty' as to their rights." Ruling on the merits, the court decided that the presumption against preemption does not apply here because immigration is an area traditionally regulated by the federal government. Moreover, the broad sweep of the law violates the clear rule of Arizona v. United States [opinion] that unlawful presence is not a criminal offense. The court also stated that the state of South Carolina is preempted by the federal government in the areas of regulating the concealing, harboring and transporting of unlawfully present aliens and regulating the field of alien registration. The portions of the law blocked by this decision made it a state criminal offense for: a person unlawfully present in the US to conceal, harbor, or shelter herself from detection, or allow herself to be transported within the state; a third party to participate in concealing, sheltering, or transporting a person unlawfully present in the US; an alien 18 years or older to fail to carry an alien registration card; and an individual to display or possess a false identification card for the purpose of proving lawful presence. The preliminary injunction was upheld, as plaintiffs made a clear showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge and that they will likely suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted.
The lawsuit against the South Carolina immigration law was put on hold [JURIST report] in January 2012 pending the outcome of Arizona, which was decided on June 25 of that year. A number of states have enacted immigration laws [JURIST backgrounder] in addition to South Carolina, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Utah [JURIST reports], modeling their recent immigration laws after Arizona's controversial SB 1070. Earlier this month a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] a lawsuit seeking to scrap a key part of Georgia's sweeping anti-illegal immigration law. In April the US Supreme Court [official website] denied [JURIST report] certiorari in an appeal over Alabama's immigration law. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that portions of the Indiana immigration law are unconstitutional. Following the Supreme Court's ruling in Arizona, lower courts have handed down a variety of rulings. In September 2012 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a controversial provision of Arizona's immigration law that requires law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of persons they stop or arrest if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is in the US illegally. In August the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] struck down [JURIST report] several provisions of Alabama's controversial immigration law [HB 56, PDF], upheld a few sections of the law and rejected part of Georgia's immigration law [HB 87, text]. That same month, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] again heard arguments [JURIST report] on two anti-illegal immigrant laws enacted in 2006 by the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which deny permits to businesses that employ illegal immigrants and fine landlords who extend housing to them.