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Caucus Report 18 – Illegal Immigration

 In 2008, the South Carolina House Republicans passed the “South Carolina Plan” – then the toughest illegal immigration bill in the United States. This week, we took another step toward preventing illegal immigrants from causing problems in South Carolina.

Before I write more, let’s be clear on two issues: The General Assembly is forced to act because of the continued inaction of the Federal Government. And Republicans support legal immigration, despite the unfair and vicious attacks thrown at us by Democrats.

As we entered 2011, an Arizona television station wrote: “When it comes to cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, Arizona may be getting the headlines, but South Carolina seems to be getting results.”

The Pew Research center said earlier this year that nearly 1 in 5 illegal immigrants in South Carolina have left since we passed the 2008 legislation.

As conservatives, we know that bringing the best and the brightest, the adventurous and exceptional, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, is a key part of what made America the strongest country on Earth. We must ensure our doors remain open to those who choose to come here legally.

People stand in lines in foreign countries and put their names on lists for entry visas. They spend years waiting in lotteries for a chance to start a new life here. They come here and spend years sacrificing to bring their families here. I’m not advocating that we open our doors to everyone who wants to come in, but the people choosing the difficult LEGAL path to residency in our great country must get their chance over illegal immigrants.

The key word is “illegal.”

This week, we passed an “Arizona-style” illegal immigration bill. We approved changes to our law and required law enforcement to discern an immigrant’s legal status if detained.

The bill approved Tuesday states that if a South Carolina law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion that a person stopped, detained, or arrested is an illegal immigrant, the officer or his agency must verify the person’s residency. The bill also makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to ask for work or attempt to ask for work.

The House passed a Senate bill, but added an amendment to the bill to make it easier for the state to prosecute businesses that violate the 2008 Illegal Immigration reforms.

The illegal immigration bill is the capstone to our 17-point agenda for 2011, and we made sure to approve the Senate version of the bill so there would be no delay in getting this item to Governor Haley’s desk.

The agenda was intended to be a two-year agenda. We approved touchstone conservative issues such as a state spending limit, Voter ID, lawsuit abuse reform, shortening the legislative session, and the Repeal Amendment. Only three of the items – Illegal Immigration Reform, Voter ID, and Roll Call Voting – have been approved by the Senate.