Federal judge upholds South Carolina immigration law

COLUMBIAS, S.C. (AP/WCIV) -- A federal judge has upheld a South Carolina law allowing police to check people's immigration status.

But U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said in a ruling Thursday that he would continue a prohibition keeping other parts of the state's tough immigration law from becoming effective.

Gergel ruled in December that South Carolina's law must be put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considered a challenge to similar legislation in Arizona.

But after the U.S. Supreme Court said Arizona could allow officers to check the immigration status of those they pull over for another violation if they are suspected of being in the country illegally, Gergel said he would reconsider his ruling.

The justices tossed out many other portions of the Arizona law.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson released the following statement on Thursday's ruling regarding Section 6 of the state's immigration law:

"This action is a significant victory for South Carolina's law enforcement community. Lifting the injunction on Section 6 means police officers and sheriff's deputies now have an important tool to assist them in doing their job and for protecting South Carolinians.

"As the District Court correctly stated, Section 6(A) of Act 69 mandates that a state or local law enforcement officer who lawfully stops a person for a criminal offense and has a 'reasonable suspicion' that 'the person is unlawfully present in the United States' must make a 'reasonable effort' to determine that person's immigration status.

"Giving law enforcement this ability will make our state a better, safer place for all South Carolinians."