CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - A coalition of civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to block South Carolina's new immigration law, the latest court challenge against a state crackdown on illegal immigrants.
The suit contends the law is unconstitutional, invites racial profiling and interferes with federal law, according to a statement by the coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center.
South Carolina's law, set to take effect on January 1, requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest for another reason and suspect may be in the country illegally.
Under the new law, employers in South Carolina will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of employees and job applicants. Penalties for knowingly employing illegal immigrants will include suspension and revocation of a business license by the state.
"By requiring local law enforcement officials to act as immigration agents, this law invites discrimination against anyone who looks or sounds 'foreign,' including American citizens and legal residents," said Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.
A federal judge in Alabama last month upheld key provisions of that state's immigration law. Judges in Georgia, Arizona, Utah and Indiana have blocked parts of similar state laws aimed at trying to stem illegal immigration.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)