Washington, D.C. — Angela M. Kelley, the Center for American Progress’s Vice President of Immigration Policy and Advocacy, issued the following statement today on yesterday’s ruling which struck down the major provisions in South Carolina’s law, Act 69:
We commend and express our gratitude to the Department of Justice and the band of private litigators who continue to challenge these misguided state laws. Their relentless efforts have helped prevent the nation from reverting to a pre-Civil War era in which states made policy about who should and should not be part of their body politic.
The weight of the federal courts has sided undeniably with the Department of Justice and against those conservative legislators bent on pursuing a starvation strategy against their state’s undocumented population. Nearly all of the courts to consider these state laws have now have struck down the most extreme provisions, including the requirement that police demand "papers" during all traffic stops and the criminalization of the failure to carry papers at all times.
Only one outlier judge in Alabama has authorized some of the harshest provisions to go into effect. And in doing so, that judge has triggered a moral and humanitarian crisis in the state.
The misguided theory driving these state legislatures seems to be that by depriving immigrants of any sense of safety, community, or hope, they will all self-deport. Setting aside the constitutional principle of federal preemption that blocks states from legislating in this arena, these laws are destined to fail because they are based on an outdated vision of our nation and a miscalculation of their impact.
Long gone are the days (if they ever existed) of an America that resembled the cast of "Leave It to Beaver." In just a few decades, there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority in this country, but these laws are premised on the notion that you can tell who has "papers" just by looking at someone.
More to the point, even in the harsh environment created by these laws, most people are not leaving the state, and those that do are not leaving the country. Nearly 65 percent of the undocumented have been in the United States for longer than 10 years. There is no data to suggest they are returning to their home countries and lots to suggest they either work harder to go unnoticed in this climate, or they move to a friendlier state or city.
In the coming year the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of these measures. We hope that before they do, they turn off "Leave It to Beaver," and get out and walk around. Visit a school where different languages are spoken, look at the business owners in their neighborhood and the ethnic makeup of the customers in the grocery store where they shop.
South Carolina’s Judge Gergel, like so many others, understands the stakes. The prospect of a nation where some states hang "Keep Out" signs while others offer "All Are Welcome" signs would weaken our fabric and undermine our character. Surely we can do better.
Joining district judges from Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia as well as the only federal circuit court (U.S.C.A. 9th) to rule on the issue, Judge Richard Mark Gergel (U.S.D.Ct – S.C.) struck down the major provisions in South Carolina’s law, Act 69. He concluded, as did the other federal judges, that South Carolina’s law unconstitutionally interferes with federal law and could create severe harm if implemented.
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