Both sides cite cost at meeting

COLUMBIA --- A packed committee room Wednesday night brought supporters and detractors of state lawmakers' push to bring an Arizona-style illegal-immigration law to the Palmetto State.


Jean Saunders, an immigration attorney for the Carolinas chapter of The American Immigration Lawyers Association, said such legislation would clash with federal laws and hamper community policing activities, strain law enforcement budgets and discourage neighborhood cooperation.

In July, a federal judge gutted Arizona's new law, which required law enforcement to check immigration status while enforcing other laws. Arizona's governor has appealed the injunction.

Sen. Larry Grooms, a Berkeley County Republican, had introduced similar legislation late in the last legislative session, but the bill did not have time to move beyond the committee level.

Roan Garcia-Quintana, the executive director of Americans Have Had Enough! and a fixture at legislative panel meetings addressing immigration, voiced his support for Grooms' effort.

"American citizens in general and South Carolinians in particular have not given their consent of higher taxes, crowded schools, jammed emergency rooms ... and welfare and other services subsidizing poverty-prone immigrants," said the Cuban immigrant.

S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center attorney Tammy Besherse testified that the cost of enforcing an Arizona-style law would be crippling to South Carolina.

The meeting was one of a series held across the state to gather public comments on efforts to reduce illegal immigration in South Carolina.