U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel said he expects to rule before the end of the year on whether to grant an injunction preventing the implementation of South Carolina's new immigration law.
The judge's comments came after more than two hours of arguments from both opponents of the law and representatives of the state's Attorney General's office.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Department of Justice urged Gergel to grant the injunction while attorneys for the state argued it's Constitutionally sound and would address an important issue.
Before the proceeding started, Gergel denied a motion by Attorney General Alan Wilson to put the legal challenge on hold until a nearly identical Arizona law is debated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In questioning the attorneys, Gergel indicated he was troubled by the federal attorneys' arguments that the state's law would interfere with the United States' ability to set its own foreign policy and would interfere with relations with other nations.
Gergel said he doesn't think the state acted in bad faith in passing the law; the question is whether the law went too far.
"I think they were trying to do good. I think they consciously believed they were doing the right thing," he said. "But the question is, can they supplant the nation's role on immigration and have the nation as a whole suffer the consequences?"
Earlier on Monday, more than 100 people turned out to Washington Park near Charleston City Hall to show support for throwing out South Carolina's new immigration law.
Opponents of the law maintained that it will encourage racial profiling, break up families and hurt the economy.
A mix of people — old, young and from different ethnic backgrounds — carried signs. A group of children chanted, "Born in the USA/Don't take my mommy and daddy away."
"It's important that we stop this law," said Mario Martinez, a member of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition. "It's going to hurt a lot of people, and we don't see any need for this in a state like South Carolina, given the economic shape that it's in."
Dot Scott, president of the NAACP's Charleston chapter, said she came out Monday because the law only promotes racial profiling. College of Charleston senior Emily Williams agreed.
Williams said the law encourages people, particularly in law enforcement, to make assumptions based on people's appearance.
"America is a melting pot," she said. "It's not for whites only."
Victoria Salcedo, who moved to Johns Island from Mexico 18 years ago, is a legal resident and works for a cleaning service. She said she's not personally at risk but knows people who worry about their families being torn apart and others who already moved to other states because of law.
"I am legal, but we really need to support people who don't have any papers," Salcedo said. "We need to work together to find a way to stop this law."