South Carolina's top attorney wants the legal challenge against the state's tough new immigration law put on hold until a nearly identical Arizona law is debated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a motion Thursday seeking to let the state's immigration law take effect Jan. 1 as the Legislature intended.
He also wants a halt on all legal action against the state on the matter until the high court issues its ruling, possibly late next year.
"A ruling by the Supreme Court in Arizona is likely to resolve most or all of the issues" in the S.C. case, Wilson said of his filing.
The high court could hear the Arizona case as soon as April.
Earlier this week, the top justices agreed to hear the Arizona dispute over a law that closely resembles the version passed by South Carolina legislators in June. It requires police officers to make a "reasonable attempt" to check the immigration status of individuals whom they've stopped and for whom they have "reasonable suspicion" of being in the United States illegally.
The law also requires local officers to check the immigration status of anyone they arrest before that individual can be released.
The intent mirrors the South Carolina legislation, which allows local police to ask someone about their immigration status after an arrest or traffic stop, although they couldn't hold anyone on the sole grounds of suspicion of being in the country illegally. It also requires police to call federal immigration officials if they suspect someone of being in the country illegally.
Wilson's filing comes ahead of a hearing scheduled Monday in Charleston in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on the multi-pronged challenge against to South Carolina's law. The Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and a variety of other participants are questioning the constitutionality of the South Carolina legislation, saying that immigration issues are a federal responsibility.
S.C. ACLU Director Victoria Middleton said the group will fight Wilson's request for a stay. "The status quo should be preserved pending a final resolution of these lawsuits in order to prevent serious harm to plaintiffs and to all South Carolinians," she said. "And the current state of the law weighs in favor of blocking this misguided law."
Wilson argued that the state has a right to address its internal interests, and that the law should go into effect next month as the Legislature intended.
"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," he said.
Similar legislation has been passed and is under legal scrutiny in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Utah.