Published March 20, 2012
By Alexandra Vilchez, EFE News
A provision in South Carolina’s SB 20 immigration law exempts farm workers, nannies, fishermen and pastors from immigration checks, which some Hispanic leaders describe as hypocrisy.
The legislation, which went into effect Jan. 1, obliges all companies operating in the state to use the federal E-Verify program to make sure all their new employees are authorized to work in the country.
Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision ratifying the legality of enforcing E-Verify shut the door on the possibility of challenging that part of SB20.
Its most controversial provisions, such as allowing state and local police to ask for the papers of anyone they suspect of being undocumented and making it a felony to transport undocumented migrants, have been suspended until the high court rules on them.
According to Frank Knapp, president of the SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce, the exceptions to the use of E-Verify for certain workers set a “double standard.”
“That part of the law is not even clear in the final document. The exceptions are stated in the definitions that are somewhere else. This was almost kept secret, with little or no discussion by the general public,” Knapp told EfeMonday.
Tammy Besherse, attorney for the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, who has followed SB 20 from the beginning and attended all the public discussions, does not recall ever having heard the subject mentioned before.
“I don’t know if they kept it a secret but as far as we’re concerned, we focus on the provisions that incite racial profiling and give local police immigration responsibilities,” Besherse told Efe.
For other defenders of immigrants like Ivan Segura, vice president of the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas, excluding certain workers and forcing others to be checked is “absurd.”
“It’s like saying we don’t want undocumented people in South Carolina unless they pick fruit and vegetables and look after our kids. This is complete hypocrisy by the legislators of this law,” he said.
Some lawmakers and agribusiness operators argue that the exceptions were necessary because it’s “difficult” to check the papers of laborers in the fields.
“Something that is not perfect doesn’t mean it still doesn’t accomplish something,” a supporter of SB 20, Republican state Sen. Chip Campsen, told The State newspaper, explaining that the farm exemption was necessary to get the bill passed.
Data from the 2010 Census show that South Carolina’s Hispanic community increased by 147.7 percent over the past decade to 235,893, representing 5.1 percent of the state’s total population. Yet a study by the Pew Hispanic Center revealed that the number of undocumented immigrants in South Carolina fell 21.4 percent, from 70,000 to 55,000, since 2008.
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