On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined appeals by Farmers Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania for a hearing on their immigration-enforcement laws. Also, South Carolina agreed to a settlement that would bar enforcement of some immigration law provisions in exchange for related court challenges being dropped.
Justices refused to hear cases filed by Farmers Branch and Hazleton that sought to overturn appeals court rulings. The lower courts had determined the towns' immigration-enforcement ordinances were preempted by federal immigration law. The ordinances required prospective renters to get a license and attest to being a U.S. citizen. The measures also penalized persons who rented without a license and fined landlords for renting to illegal aliens.
By denying the cases, the Supreme Court left the appeals court rulings intact. Those rulings were inconsistent with a June 2013 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerning a renting ordinance in Fremont, Nebraska. The only difference between the three ordinances is that Fremont’s measure does penalize the renters themselves.
South Carolina, which had been defending its immigration enforcement law in the courts, decided to sign a settlement agreement with the open border groups that had brought the challenge. The settlement agrees to an injunction barring enforcement of some challenged provisions and limits the enforcement of others. In exchange, the groups agreed to drop their challenges.
One affected provision allows officers to check the immigration status of people after a lawful stop if "reasonable suspicion" exists that they're in the country illegally. South Carolina Solicitor General Robert Cook recently issued an opinion saying that police could not extend regular traffic stops in order to determine the immigration status of suspects. Citing the Solicitor General’s opinion and a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling concerning Arizona law, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson told the court the state’s law “does not authorize prolonging the detention of a person…simply to determine the person’s immigration status.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped several states draft their enforcement laws, said open-border groups are using the courts to slow down legislation that citizens strongly favor. He said, “whether a state wins or loses depends heavily on which judge hears the case."
Updated: Fri, Mar 7th 2014 @ 9:27am EST