By Sarita Chourey
COLUMBIA — The S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation modeled after Arizona’s illegal-immigration efforts, despite protests from Democratic senators who said the Palmetto State bill would lead to racial profiling, hurt business and further burden law enforcement and taxpayers.
Under S. 20, law enforcement must demand proof of legal immigration status from someone, during the course of a non-immigration investigation, whom they suspect of being in the country illegally. Authorities would notify federal immigration officials if a suspect cannot produce acceptable identification or if law enforcement could not use police resources to confirm the suspect’s legal status.
“I want the phones of the federal government to ring off hook,,” said Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, on Tuesday, stressing that state prisons currently house 404 known illegal immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes.
Senators Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, and Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, who spent his career in law enforcement, both warned that additional police training and resources would be needed.
Sen. Robert Ford, a black Democrat from Charleston, opposed the legislation on a handful of fronts but prompted laughter among lawmakers and attendees in the committee room when he said Mexican laborers work harder than blacks by taking on tough physical jobs consisting of “all that dirty stuff.”
“Aint no brother’s going to do that, not like a Mexican will. Listen, I love everybody,” said Ford. “Listen, a brother’s going to find ways to take a break.” said Ford, whose official biography says he was arrested 73 times during civil rights movement.
The bill would make other changes, such as allowing a business that has been flagged to have its name removed from the state regulator’s website of offenders after a year of full compliance with the law that requires them to verify employees’ legal status.
The bill also intends to close a perceived loophole exploited by subcontractors by by requiring them to submit their name and contact information to the general contractor.
A report by the Pew Hispanic Center said illegal immigrants make up 3.7 percent of the nation’s population and 5.2 percent of its labor force. The center’s findings also there were 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., the same level estimated for the previous year.
Courtesy of The Augusta Chronicle