South Carolina has introduced its own Arizona-inspired legislation that would allow police to check the status of anyone they “think” might be in the country illegally. The state has had a ban on attending college for a few years, as well as a 2008 law that phased in use of the E-Verify program over the course of a few years.
South Carolina is bordered to the north and south by states who have also taken up legislation that harasses undocumented students: the Georgia Board of Regents recently banned undocumented immigrants from attending its most selective universities after Jessica Colotl, an undocumented student at Kennesaw State University, was placed in deportation proceedings. She was allowed to finish her degree. North Carolina has a bill in its General Assembly (numbered H.B. 11) that would prohibit students without visas from attending public universities or community colleges.
Toward the broader immigrant community, Georgia is planning an audit of state employers and contractors that are required to use the E-Verify program. According to a 2009 report commissioned by the United States Customs and Immigration Service, E-Verify had an inaccuracy rate of 54 percent. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, federal officials claim to have made improvements in the accuracy of the program. A majority of North Carolina counties participate in the 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to act as immigration officials. North Carolina and Texas were also the states in which the Secure Communities program began, which like 287(g), allows local law enforcement to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the National Immigration Law Center, the program has yielded “more questions than answers” because of its indifference as to the guilt or innocence of anyone detained under the program or to whether or not racial profiling played a part in the arrest.
South Carolina currently does not have a high participation rate in the 287(g) program. As of December 2010, four SC counties participate (Beaufort, Lexington, York, and Charleston) in the program. However, the law introduced would extend many of the powers given to local officers under 287(g) to officers across the state.
Tom Fox, speaking for Horry County jails, claims that law-abiding undocumented immigrants wouldn’t be affected by the program. Speaking to WISTV, Fox said that: “A person that is behaving as a normal citizen more than likely would not be under an investigative umbrella. It could mean that they do at some point in time knock on her door but they don’t go around and just blanket an area. There has to be something of a nature that will cause them to investigate it.”
According to a report released by the Migration Policy Institute, about half of the immigrants detained under 287(g) were detained for minor offenses or nothing other than their immigration status. ICE and supporters of the program assert that it focuses on violent criminals and gangs, but the report indicates that the assertion is false. The report found that it was most common in the Southeast for 287(g) counties to turn over every single undocumented immigrant taken into custody over to ICE.
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