South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has filed a motion to let the state's immigration law to take effect Jan. 1 as intended, and to halt all legal action against the state until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Arizona's nearly identical immigration measure.
"To say that this case before the Supreme Court is important to the instant suit would be an understatement," Wilson said in connection to a filing made today. "A ruling by the Supreme Court in Arizona is likely to resolve most or all of the issues in the instant case."
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week agreed to hear the Arizona dispute where a law passed there 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 that officers check the immigration status of anyone they arrest before the individual is released.
The chief legal question is whether Arizona's 2010 law infringes on the federal responsibility for handling border security and immigration.
Arizona's intent mirrors the South Carolina law passed earlier this year. Under its guidelines police could ask someone about their immigration status after an arrest or traffic stop, but 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 someone is suspected of being in the country illegally.
Wilson's filing comes as a hearing is scheduled Monday in Charleston on the federal challenge to South Carolina's law. The Justice Department, the ACLU and a variety of immigration groups opposed to the state's move have filed suit challenging its constitutionality, saying immigration issues are a federal duty.
The South Carolina ACLU was formulating a response.
Wilson argued the state has a right to address its internal interests.
"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. "We have asked the judge to defer to the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby letting our law go into effect as scheduled."
The Supreme Court could hear the Arizona challenge as soon as April.