A federal judge ruled on Thursday that South Carolina police officers can now check the immigration status of suspected illegal aliens during a lawful stop. In a statement, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said, "Giving law enforcement this ability will make our state a better, safer place for all South Carolinians."

Last year, the Obama Administration and the American Civil Liberties Union sued to challenge the constitutionality of South Carolina's immigration enforcement law. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel initially allowed most provisions of the law to go into effect, including a mandate for all employers to use E-Verify, but blocked its status check provision and measures that create state penalties for failing to carry alien registration documents and for transporting or housing illegal aliens.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that a similar status check law in Arizona did not violate federal law, Judge Gergel removed his earlier injunction on the status check provision, but continued to block implementation of the other enforcement measures. Gergel noted that the Supreme Court did not address the other measures in its opinion, and said both sides in the case must now make further arguments in court.

Illegal alien advocacy groups challenging the law have not decided whether they will appeal Gergel's decision.

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Updated: Fri, Nov 23rd 2012 @ 8:04am EST