State Dept official : SC immigration law threatens U.S. citizens' safety

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- A top-ranking U.S. State Department official says South Carolina's tough new immigration law has not only damaged the country's reputation but could also endanger U.S. citizens abroad.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns says in court documents that the law interferes with federal authorities' jurisdiction over immigration and could subject U.S. citizens to retaliation when they travel.

"Act No. 69 undermines the diverse immigration administration and enforcement tools made available to federal authorities and establishes a distinct state-specific immigration policy, driven by an individual state's own policy choices, which clashes with U.S. foreign affairs priorities, risks significant harassment of foreign nationals, and has the potential to harm a wide range of delicate U.S. foreign relations interests," said Burns in a statement.

Burns, who previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan, is a career diplomat and foreign service officer who said he is tasked with helping the secretary of state form U.S. foreign policy.

His statement was filed as part of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley over the state's new law, which takes effect Jan. 1. Prosecutors want to halt the law while their lawsuit challenging its constitutionality moves forward.

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The measure requires police to call federal immigration officials if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. Justice Department officials are challenging similar laws in other states.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has said he is willing to take the fight for South Carolina's immigration law to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Critics, including some law enforcement officials, have argued the law could put a burden on the state's prisons.

Do you think South Carolina's immigration law has damaged the country's reputation or could put U.S. citizens at risk while travelling outside the country?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

(The Associated Press contributed to the report.)