COLUMBIA — State officials want a federal judge to deny the U.S. government’s request to halt South Carolina’s illegal immigration law while a lawsuit goes forward.

Gov. Nikki Haley and other officials argue that the United States cannot challenge the law because no federal law authorizes such a lawsuit.

The lawsuit focuses on the requirement that law enforcement officers try to check the legal status of someone they suspect is in the country illegally. While the law says officers cannot hold someone solely on that suspicion, opponents say it would encourage racial profiling.

The Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union want to keep the new law from going into effect Jan. 1. They say it should be thrown out as unconstitutional. A hearing is set Dec. 19.