A controversial illegal immigration bill is headed for the governor’s desk after months of debate this year. The House on Tuesday agreed with Senate amendments to the bill in a 69-43 vote.
The bill requires law enforcement to check a person’s immigration status during an arrest, detention, or traffic stop if they have “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally. Supporters say it gives law enforcement a tool to more effectively enforce federal law. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) praised its passage.
Today, South Carolina joined a growing number of states who are taking proactive steps to address the problems created by immigrants who not only come into our country illegally, but also violate our laws while here.
Opponents worry the law will encourage racial profiling. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) opposed the bill. She says she’s concerned “undocumented workers” are being targeted, when the problem is really a system that encourages them to come to the country and work in low-paying jobs.
They are working in unsafe conditions. They are being taken advantage of financially because they are not paid even minimum-wage. So, all of this anger being directed towards undocumented workers I just don’t understand.
Some late changes to the bill will require businesses to use a federal tracking system called E-Verify to check the background of any new employees they hire. Current law only requires them to ask for an identification card and Social Security number. Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Columbia) said the E-Verify requirement was needed because the state is only allowed to use a national system to prosecute any businesses that hire workers illegally.
Only a federal system can verify whether a person is legal in this country or not. A state driver’s license does not do that… When the state is taking action, it must use a federal process.
However, Rep. Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews) worried the increased enforcement would put many South Carolina businesses at a disadvantage against other states that don’t have such a law.
I believe we are trying to go too far, too quickly. I sincerely believe that this puts the business community of the state of South Carolina in a very precarious position.
Cobb-Hunter was concerned about the E-Verify system, which requires an internet connection. She says a lot of rural farms don’t have online access. Harrison replied the state Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation will provide the service in each of their local offices.
The vote was along party lines, although one Republican, Mac Toole (R-Lexington), voted against the bill. It is now a procedural move away from the governor’s desk.