The Miami Herald

S.C. House approves immigration crackdown bill

Those suspected of being in the country illegally soon may have to prove they are U.S. citizens, at least in South Carolina.

S.C. House members approved an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigrants by a 69-43 vote. The bill requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they pull over for traffic violations or stop on suspicion of other violations.

After one more perfunctory vote, the bill, which the House amended, heads back to the Senate, which previously approved it.

If the Senate goes along with the amendments, South Carolina will become one of a growing number of states adopting immigration laws, traditionally an area overseen by the federal government. But Arizona, Utah and Georgia have adopted similar laws, saying the federal government has failed to stem a flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

S.C. House Republicans said Tuesday the bill will halt the influx of illegal immigrants into the state, making it safer and ensuring jobs go to legal residents.

“This bill gives our state’s law enforcement officers another valuable tool to use in the day-to-day fight they wage to enforce our immigration laws,” said House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.

Supporters said the proposal is a needed change.

“It’s time we did something about it,” said Roan Garcia-Quintana, a Greenville County immigration reform activist who supports the bill. “We cannot accommodate everyone who needs help and comes here. We cannot accommodate everyone in our hospitals, our schools. We didn’t ask them to come here.”

House Democrats denounced the bill as racial profiling that will make a suspect of every Hispanic-American, burden cash-strapped local police and clog already-crowded jails.

“This is a joke. It is a hoax,” said state Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, who opposed the bill. “It’s designed to make people feel good, but it does nothing to make America safer. It is an attempt to demonize a portion of our population.”

Hispanics make up about 5 percent of the S.C. population, more than double from 10 times ago.

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