Governor Henry McMaster is pressing lawmakers to pass legislation to ban “sanctuary cities” in South Carolina, although he admits he’s not aware of any cities in the state which would fall into that category.
The governor laid out the proposal during a news conference in Greenville on Monday morning. “South Carolina is on the cusp of great economic growth and prosperity,” he told reporters. “We know there are things that could undermine that. One is public safety, such as represented by the presence of a sanctuary city.”
“Sanctuary city” is a term loosely used to describe those jurisdictions which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, particularly in terms of turning over names of those arrested on other charges who are in the country illegally. Republicans, led by the Trump Administration, have sought to crack down on the cities amid increased resistance to Trump Administration immigration policies by Democratic-controlled cities.
However, South Carolina law already bans cities from blocking communication with federal investigators over a person’s immigration status. The 2011 statue was one several major changes that were upheld by a federal court, although other provisions (including giving local police the ability to question a person’s immigration status if stopped for an unrelated reason) were declared unconstitutional.
State Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said he would pre-file the bill ahead of next year’s January session. He said it would not try to change the 2011 law, but create a financial penalty for any town which does not cooperate with immigration authorities. It would also require the State Law Enforcement Division not to recertify any law enforcement agency which does not cooperate.
Democratic opponents accused McMaster of trying to play to immigration fears ahead of his reelection effort next year. The governor faces three challengers: Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Cabinet official Catherine Templeton and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill. Templeton responded on Twitter to McMaster’s proposal Monday, noting the 2011 law and saying she helped enforce it during her time leading the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.