An illegal immigration bill is now moving forward in the South Carolina House more than two months after the Senate passed it.
A House panel passed the legislation out favorably with a 3-2 vote Thursday. The panel’s Republicans supported the law, while Democrats opposed it.
The bill would give police and sheriff’s deputies the power to check the background of a person they arrest or stop for a traffic violation. It would also create a small law enforcement team in the Department of Public Safety to enforce the law. Opponents criticized the bill’s cost and its potential for racial profiling.
During the meeting, many from the public testified about the possible changes. One who supported tougher enforcement was Roan Garcia-Quintana, a Mauldin statistician and conservative activist originally from Cuba.
Garcia said a problem with current law is that businesses caught hiring undocumented workers are still able to get their fines forgiven if they fire the employee within five days.
It’s a shame that (the) last few years, we have imposed nearly a million dollars in fines and only collected a few thousand dollars as a result of that forgiveness clause. S.20 takes care of that.
However, several social workers attacked the bill, saying it would create a rift between law enforcement and legal immigrants. Pamela Ravenhorst is director of the South Carolina Immigrant Victim Network, a group that tries to help immigrants who are crime victims. She said the law would scare away foreign victims and witnesses who might otherwise report crimes.
If you were the victim of a sexual assault and the only person who had any information about the perpetrator… was an immigrant, if they do not feel safe to come forward to law enforcement and talk with them candidly and openly… the crime may go unidentified, the victim will remain silent, and the crime will go unpunished.
Rep. James Smith (D-Richland) said such a law will lead to racial profiling.
I hear stories all the time in South Carolina about people getting pulled over for “driving Hispanic.” That’s their only violation. They get 20 questions (and) you have to prove who you are. That’s never been our way. We’ve never assumed somebody’s guilty of anything because of the way they look.
The subcommittee also decided to increase punishments for those businesses caught hiring undocumented workers. The state Department of Labor, License, and Regulations can order repeat offenders to shut down for 10 days, but director Catherine Templeton said her agency has little power to enforce the order if the business refuses to comply.
Templeton said any new legislation needs fines in order to give the law any teeth.
They need to be significant… If you are a huge corporation and hiring unauthorized employees only hurts you to the tune of $200 (in fines), you don’t care.
The subcommittee voted to add penalties if the business continues operating after a shutdown order. The fines would range from $15,000 to $50,000, depending on the violation. The company could still agree to shut down and avoid the new fines.