Sanford, immigration coalition discuss comprehensive reform

 

The Beaufort Gazette

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and members of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition met Monday morning to discuss the 1st District Republican's views on comprehensive immigration reform.

Eight coalition members made the case for reform to the congressman, who does not back the bill the U.S. Senate passed in June, which would amp up border security and create a 13-year wait for citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.

However, Sanford said he will continue to consider the issue and committed to attending one of the coalition's town hall meetings to discuss reform with some of Beaufort County's Hispanic community.

"What I'll commit to do is going to one of the meetings, I'd love to learn more," Sanford said. "One of the drivers for me and the deliberations on this issue is the cost issue. So anything you could help me with on that would be much appreciated ... I'd love to learn more on those numbers."

A date for the meeting hasn't been set, coalition co-chair Eric Esquivel said.

The group hopes to find a time in December following a Spanish-language mass in either Bluffton or Hilton Head to gather as many members of the coalition as possible. The group also extended the invitation to Sanford's fiancee, Maria Belen Chapur of Argentina.

A final date and time will depend on the congressman's schedule, Esquivel said.

Esquivel and coalition co-chair George Kanuck said they have been trying to secure a meeting with Sanford since July and are happy to have finally had the congressman's ear.

"Congressman, we think you're secure in your office," Kanuck told Sanford. "We brought this message to you to be: Be brave, be courageous, be bold. People would follow someone like yourself."

The issue of immigration reform may be on the back burner for another few months, though, Sanford said.

The focus in Washington D.C. is squarely on the debt ceiling and budget debates, which may have punted discussions of immigration reform until after those issues are resolved, he said.

Until then, Sanford said he will study "the math of the equation and the employment reality of the equation."

"I don't think it's going to be handled until after January or February, but it's something I'll continue to learn more on," he said.

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