South Carolina heads immigration debates

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican champion for immigration reform and a key member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who are negotiating a draft bill, calls South Carolina “Ground Zero” – and for good reason.  The state is emerging as a big battleground in the debate over US immigration.

Members of the Republican Party are using the state as a kind of test market for the message they are sending, which is that immigration is not just an economic issue but also a moral one, despite the fact that the great majority of religious groups have, up until now, kept out of the debate on the issue.

The Senator says that his plan for immigration means controlling who gets jobs in the United States, securing the nation’s border but also offering a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and providing access for workers who are not citizens as required.  Graham also pointed out the pathway to citizenship means that undocumented immigrants have to get to the back of the queue in order to put in their application, pay taxes and take English proficiency exams, with those who are in the US illegally also given a fine.

Not everyone is happy with those ideas, with some claiming that Graham’s plans will help immigrants to steal jobs, and opponents have begun an advertisement in campaign in the state that plays into this fear.  Graham is undeterred by the scare campaign, however, noting: “If you want to run ads, spend all the money you want to spend.  I’m not backing off.”