The House has passed an illegal immigration bill that would require a police officer to check the immigration status of a person they arrest or stop. The vote was along party lines 69-43, with only Republicans supporting it and the opposition coming entirely from Democrats.
The bill would require law enforcement to check a person’s immigration status after an arrest or a traffic stop. The officer would still be required to have a “reasonable suspicion” the person was in the country illegally.
The bill had been a priority for Republicans. House Speaker Bobby Harrell said South Carolina needed to step up enforcement because Congress has not addressed immigration.
Our citizens have voiced their support for this issue, and South Carolinians clearly want our nation’s standing federal immigration laws enforced. If the federal government refuses to enforce these laws, the South Carolina General Assembly will support state laws that do.
However, Democrats say the law is a wedge issue that does not fix the causes of illegal immigration. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) said it’s the latest of several laws passed in recent years that don’t address the real problem.
All these little knee-jerk reactions… you’re going to run out of fingers. It’s like the little boy in the dike, trying to plug up holes with his fingers to keep the water back. It’s a waste of time.
Democrats also said the law would lead to racial profiling. Rep. David Mack (North Charleston) said that was why law enforcement officials at SLED and the Department of Public Safety opposed it.
There’s no way this bill can work without racial profiling. It reminds one of South Africa (and) “let me see your papers.” We’re better than that. Or we should be.
However, Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), a former police officer himself who supports the law, said the racial profiling argument was being overhyped.
Law enforcement is profiling. If you want to get away from political correctness… profiling is how you solve crimes. It’s very simple. If a duck robs a bank, I don’t put an APB out on rabbits. You want to cut down on time; you want to cut down on stops, so you look for the duck. Is that profiling? I don’t consider that profiling.
Pitts said he has no problem with immigrants, just those who come to the country illegally. He said his daughter-in-law is a Colombian woman who “did it right.”
There were some changes in the House version. Legislators dropped a proposal that would have added a fee for wire money transfers. The House also voted to strengthen the civil fines against businesses that repeatedly violate immigration laws and refuse to close down.