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House adjourns before considering sanctuary cities bill

April 5, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina House adjourned for the week Thursday without taking up legislation that would hold local governments responsible for reporting illegal immigrants.

The measure had the support of Gov. Henry McMaster, but the bill never got a second reading, and lawmakers went home. Without a second reading and the April 10 deadline approaching for bills to advance from the House to be considered in the Senate, there’s a chance the bill won’t survive.

South Carolina law requires local and state police to enforce federal immigration laws. The bill would require municipalities to file a yearly report showing they are in compliance with those laws to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Critics of the bill said it’s a national issue and is only being discussed in the House because it’s on the national GOP agenda. The U.S. Department of Justice recently sued California for what the Trump Administration said were violations of federal immigration statutes.

McMaster said during his 2018 State of the State address that he wanted to keep people safe and there would be no sanctuaries in the state. He has pushed for stronger immigration legislation since entering office in 2017 and is a strong opponent of sanctuary cities. “Sanctuary city” is a label for jurisdictions that refuse or limit local involvement in federal immigration enforcement. There are no such cities in South Carolina.

Greenville Republican Rep. James “Mike” Burns, a bill co-sponsor, said the measure would keep citizens safe and help target illegal immigrants with a criminal history.

“When you have illegal felons who are murdering people, who are raping people, who are stealing from people, who are bringing drugs and all kind of things in, and we don’t want to do something about it?” Burns said.

Burns said he understands illegal immigrants want to make a better life for themselves, but said there is a legal way of doing it.

“We don’t want to give them a free ride here and a sanctuary where they won’t be arrested and won’t be deported,” said Burns. “They come here illegally, and they’re getting ahead when they shouldn’t.”

Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg described the bill as “a solution in search of a problem.”

“SLED and other law enforcement have much more important work to do than become ICE agents and do the work of immigrant officials,” Cobb-Hunter said.

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