South Carolina Presents Clear Immigration Choices

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Campaign attention is shifting to South Carolina, a state that makes clear the choice Republican leaders face regarding immigration.

On one hand, a bill that passed a state Senate committee late last month would authorize the state to register and track refugees, and prohibit state spending on refugee resettlement without the legislature’s approval, among other measures.

The measure falls in line with the heated, negative rhetoric some Republican political leaders, including some candidates for president, are espousing. But in South Carolina and elsewhere, another conversation about immigrants and immigration is taking place among conservatives.

The latter, more nuanced approach was reflected in South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s response to last month’s State of the Union.

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country,” Haley said. “ … We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.”

In a Religion News Service piece posted today, evangelical voices speak out against the legislation the state Senate is considering. Support for immigrants and immigration is not new among South Carolina’s evangelical community.

Moreover, the state’s agricultural community is anxious for a better immigration process. Agribusiness is South Carolina’s largest industry.

“Bombast masquerading as candor might win you some cheers during primary season, but it does not address the reality with immigration,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum Action Fund. “Here’s the reality: More and more Republican voters know we need a constructive conversation that leads to solutions.

“In South Carolina and elsewhere, immigrants contribute to our communities and economy. For candidates, assigning price tags to border walls is not real courage. Candidates will demonstrate true courage when they engage in a values-focused conversation that moves all of us forward.”


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