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We’ve made it clear on this website that South Carolina’s latest so-called “immigration reform” legislation is a joke … just like the legislation our “Republican-controlled” General Assembly passed in 2008.

While the latest bill creates a new government bureaucracy tasked with collecting immigration information during routine traffic stops – the bill forbid persons detained on suspicion of being in the country illegally from being held on those grounds. Also, the only “enforcement” the bill authorizes is for state cops to place a phone call to the U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency.

“All lawmakers have done is to subsidize a massive racial profiling campaign that provides no method for deporting anybody,” we wrote earlier this year. “It’s a colossal waste of time and money … and another unfunded mandate for local law enforcement.”

We also pointed out that “state taxpayers in South Carolina will likely be spending additional money soon to defend” the law against an inevitable federal lawsuit.

Well guess what … this week the U.S. Department of Justice filed its lawsuit, requesting an injunction that would bar the state from implementing its new law, which is set to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

“The Justice Department has many important tasks and two of the most important tasks it has are defending the Constitution and ensuring equality for all citizens,” U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said.

The Justice Department lawsuit argues that immigration is a federal issue – not a state one – and that South Carolina’s law “will cause the detention and harassment of authorized visitors, immigrants, and citizens who do not have or carry identification documents specified by the statute, or who otherwise will be swept within (its) rigid approach of universal, undifferentiated enforcement.”

South Carolina is the third state to be sued over its immigration law – following prior legal challenges of legislation passed in Arizona and Alabama.

“It is understandable that communities remain frustrated with the broken immigration system, but a patchwork of state laws is not the solution and will only create problems,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Translation? The federal government is more focused on creating a “path to citizenship” for undocumented workers than it is on sending them back home.

According to figures released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau, during the most recent decade 13.1 million immigrants (both legal and illegal) have entered the country. However, our nation has lost 1 million jobs during that same time period. In fact, in 2008 and 2009 alone a total of 2.4 million legal and illegal immigrants settled in America – just as the U.S. economy was shedding over 8 million jobs.

While this immigrant influx has slowed from its previous peak (2.9 million legal and illegal immigrants arrived in America in 2004 and 2005), it hasn’t mattered. This steady stream of newcomers combined with the failure of the American economy to replace the jobs it lost over the last three years means a greater strain is being placed on the country.

Adding to the strain is the explosion of “anchor babies,” or children born to illegal immigrants. According to a recent Pew Center study, these babies now account for five percent of all live births in the United States.

The federal government has tough immigration laws on its books –  they’re just not being enforced. And for all the tough talk on behalf of South Carolina’s law by Gov. Nikki Haley, S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell and others – it doesn’t provide any real enforcement, either.

South Carolina’s law “diverts critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermines the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve, while failing to address the underlying problem: the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level,” according to U.S. Homeland Security Czar Janet Napolitano.

We agree …

If South Carolina lawmakers are going to usurp federal authority by passing a new immigration reform law (something they’ve done twice in three years), it ought to at least have teeth. All this law does is grow government for the purpose of needless discrimination.

Of course we don’t expect state lawmakers to ever support legislation that actually deports anybody, because that would result in the collapse of our state’s tourism industry, which relies on undocumented workers.