Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday that he wants to make sure that South Carolina has no sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants.
Speaking at the Greenville County Courthouse with several Upstate lawmakers, McMaster endorsed a bill that Rep. Bruce Bannister intends to introduce that would cut off state funding for three years for any town or city that doesn’t comply with state immigration laws.
Under these laws, officials must make reasonable effort to determine whether a person in custody charged with a crime is an unlawful alien. They also are required to share the immigration status of these individuals with federal, state and local agencies.
“No mechanism exists today to verify the compliance of the local entities, the government entities, with those immigration laws and reporting requirements,” McMaster said. “We here today seek to change that.”
There are currently no so-called sanctuary cities in South Carolina. But a number of cities throughout the nation such as Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco do not fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.
“You’ve seen other cities around the country have said simply they will not enforce those laws. South Carolina will not abide by that type of lawlessness here,” McMaster said. “It is time to do this now before such a thing takes root in our state and I’m proud that these legislators here today have seen fit to step up to introduce this legislation.”
Bannister, a Republican from Greenville, said his bill is meant to add an enforcement procedure to a state immigration law that was approved in 2011.
Monday’s news conference in Greenville took place as opening arguments were set to begin in a California courtroom in the trial of an undocumented Mexican immigrant accused of fatally shooting a woman in San Francisco in July 2015. President Donald Trump and other Republicans have cited the case in criticizing sanctuary cities and calling for a wall to be built along the border of the U.S. and Mexico.
Will McCorkle, a Clemson University graduate student, said McMaster’s comments about keeping sanctuaries cities out of South Carolina are little more than a “political ploy.”
Bannister’s bill would make immigrants less likely to report crimes or cooperate with law enforcement officials, said McCorkle, who is working on a thesis examining teachers’ attitudes and awareness about the rights of immigrant students. He also said the measure could increase the odds of “families being ripped apart” if an illegal immigrant arrested for a minor offense winds up being deported.
McMaster’s visit to Greenville on Monday came one week after Trump attended the Republican governor’s fundraiser at the Embassy Suites on Verdae Boulevard. McMaster also spoke Monday morning at the 40th annual joint meeting of the Southeast U.S.-Japan Association and the Japan-U.S. Southeast Association at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Greenville.
McMaster replaced former Gov. Nikki Haley in January after Trump chose her to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster, who is seeking a full four-year term as governor next year, has visited the Upstate at least nine times since late August.
One of his Republican rivals in the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, was scheduled to speak Monday night at Bob Jones University in Greenville.
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