The Obama Justice Department has launched yet another outrageous lawsuit against a state acting within its broad police powers, this time drawing a bead on South Carolina over its immigration law.
This administration has already sued Arizona over its SB 1070 in 2010, and Alabama over its recent immigration enforcement measure this summer. The executive branch has now challenged South Carolina’s similar law.
The Palmetto State’s statute is to become effective Jan. 1. The Obama administration has now moved to block this popular state measure.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) claims that the statute is unconstitutional and violates the right to due process. That is the same basic argument leveled at other states’ laws.
The South Carolina measure “diverts critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermines the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve, while failing to address the underlying problem: the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.
In other words, the lawsuits represent a political hammer, meant to deprive states and localities of their tools of federalism. The administration apparently seeks to make every corner of the country suffer the ills of illegal immigration until Congress passes a mass amnesty. Then, all the former illegal aliens will be legal residents—and newly laundered Democrat voters.
South Carolina this year enacted a law to deal with the spreading presence of illegal aliens residing in the state. This measure resembles other state and local laws in several respects. A new unit within the state Public Safety Department is set up to handle state laws related to immigrants.
The state’s law requires police officers to check an individual’s immigration status, if there is reasonable suspicion—a common, well-established legal principle—about the legality of the person’s residence in the country. The suspect would first have to have been stopped on some other grounds, such as a traffic violation or criminal arrest. Police could not hold the person solely on immigration-status suspicion.
This measure fits with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-mandated Secure Communities program. Secure Communities requires local police to check the immigration status of arrested suspected illegal immigrants. The state requirement also tracks with the reason DHS’ Law Enforcement Support Center exists: to assist local police to confirm a suspect’s immigration status.
As in almost one-third of the states, this law also requires verification of a new employee’s U.S. work authorization, using the free E-Verify system. South Carolina businesses that knowingly skirt this requirement face revocation of their business licenses.
And the law adds new state felony crimes to the books. Illegal aliens who let themselves be transported face criminal charges. So do those who make false identification cards for illegal aliens.
South Carolinians gain a right to sue state officials who refuse to enforce this law.
“If the feds were doing their job, we wouldn’t have had to address illegal immigration reform at the state level,” Rob Godfrey, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, said. “Until they do, we’re going to keep fighting in South Carolina to be able to enforce our laws.”
Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings earlier this year, the Obama administration’s move looks spiteful, cynical and full of hubris. The court ruled 5 to 3 in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting that state laws conditioning business licenses on employee verification through E-Verify fall within states’ far-reaching police powers. The requirement serves a legitimate state interest, ensuring a legal workforce.
In a second case arising from Hazelton, Pa., the high court upheld the local ordinance that follows the same course.
States and localities bear the brunt of the costs that illegal aliens impose on taxpayers. Most of the cost burden goes for education, welfare and medical coverage. Other costs include criminal justice and jail.
The Center for Immigration Studies reports that South Carolina has suffered a 337% spike in illegal immigration since 1990. In Alabama, illegal immigration has skyrocketed 287% over that period. Arizona’s illegal resident numbers rose 208%.
State and local costs for services siphoned by illegal aliens and their anchor babies now total $391 million a year in South Carolina. Alabama’s costs associated with illegals come to $298 million a year. For Arizona, illegal aliens cost the state $2.6 billion a year.
The Justice Department should reread the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment. The Obama crowd should start saving taxpayer money by not pursuing a mean-spirited intimidation litigation agenda.