Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why and When Hispanic, Latinos became the Enemy. Last year, 46 states enacted 246 laws on Undocumented immigration mainly targeted Hispanics, Latinos specially Mexicans and, more than triple the number from 2006. That's of the more than 1,560 bills proposed nationwide. The only four states not passing such laws in 2007 were Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

A bill clamping down on illegal immigration, a chief goal for South Carolina lawmakers this year, received key approval Wednesday in the House.The proposal would require businesses to check the status of their employees through a federal verification program or only hire people with a valid driver's license. It would also prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public colleges in South Carolina and create a felony for hiding or transporting illegal workers. Exemptions are given to shelters for the homeless and domestic violence victims.The bill requires another mostly routine reading in the House before it heads to the Senate, which passed a similar proposal last year.Critics say the bill does little to curtail illegal immigration. Rep. Joe Neal said it actually makes it easier for businesses to employ illegal workers because the penalties are so lenient.Under the legislation, contractors who don't check the status of employees can be fined 5 percent of their total project if they're working for public agencies and governments."We didn't even require them to lose the contract or fire the illegal immigrants," said Neal, D-Hopkins. "We're giving a wink and a nod and calling the public blind mules because they're not supposed to understand the game that's being played."House Speaker Bobby Harrell called that criticism ridiculous. He said the penalty would cut into profits and if built into a bid, might prevent the company from getting the job.Harrell pushed the bill, saying it was necessary to prevent an influx of illegals from neighboring Georgia, where similar legislation was enacted last year.House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison said he hopes the bill will protect South Carolina residents and employees until the U.S. Congress can act. "This is a federal problem and the federal government has failed miserably," said Harrison, D-Columbia.The state Chamber of Commerce supports the bill, because it bans local governments from passing their own more strict immigration laws, preventing a hodgepodge of rules across the state, spokesman Otis Rawl said.The lengthy proposal also forbids illegal immigrants from getting state scholarships to attend private colleges, forbids illegal adults from public assistance, and makes it a crime for illegal workers to give false documents.It also directs the State Law Enforcement Division chief to negotiate with the federal government for ways the state can enforce federal immigration laws.Increasingly frustrated by inaction from Congress, nearly every state has passed some sort of illegal immigration law on a wide range of topics. More than 300 bills have been introduced so far this year, said Ann Morse, program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures' Immigrant Policy Project.

Gov. Mark Sanford also wants immigration reform, mentioning it earlier this week as he made stops across South Carolina to push his agenda

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