Federal judges have blocked strict new immigration laws adopted by conservative legislatures in half a dozen states, including a ruling last week that said South Carolina may not set up a “street-level dragnet” to stop and arrest illegal immigrants, the Los Angeles Times reports. Immigrant rights advocates who have cheered those rulings may soon find their luck has run out as those rulings head for the Supreme Court. Legal experts believe the high court’s conservative majority will take a sharply different approach.
So far, lower-court judges have mostly sided with the Obama administration, ruling, as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel did in the South Carolina case, that regulating immigration is the province solely of the federal government, not the states. In addition to South Carolina, judges have blocked extensive parts of immigration laws in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Utah and some parts of an Alabama law. Immigrant rights advocates say nearly all the judges have agreed that states cannot make immigration offenses a state crime. “The common thread is that states can’t be in the business of finding and locking up people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants,” said Cecillia Wang of the national Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The Alabama ruling is the one notable exception to that trend.