EDITOR'S NOTE: As the Nov. 2 general election approaches, reporter Robert Behre is interviewing gubernatorial hopefuls Nikki Haley, R-Lexington, and Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, on the biggest issues facing the state. This installment focuses on immigration.
Q: There's a lot of controversy surrounding illegal immigration in the state. How big is the problem, and what impact does illegal immigration have on the lives of people in South Carolina?
Haley: "The biggest problem with illegal immigration is we still don't have control over how many illegal immigrants are here. We have passed illegal immigration reform. My opponent did not fund the prosecution of that, which is a problem. But I will tell you that if the Arizona-style immigration reform comes to my desk, I will absolutely sign it."
Sheheen: "I think that it is a serious issue and that because of its serious nature, the state passed a very strict and comprehensive immigration bill two years ago focusing on employers. In fact, the provisions are, from what I've read, the strongest in the nation. I think that was a legitimate response to the federal government's failures to enforce immigration laws in South Carolina and around the country."
Q: Does the 2008 state law, which requires all businesses to verify that their new hires are here legally or face stiff fines, do enough to address it?
Haley: "It needs to be funded so that we can properly enforce it. Right now, that's not happening."
Sheheen: "I think it's unfortunate that South Carolina even has to get into the business because it's clearly something the federal government should be doing. The only complete solution will be when the federal government fully enforces immigration laws. I don't think any single state can do enough. I think the federal government has to take responsibility, and we have to hold the federal government's feet to the fire."
Q: Would you consider signing legislation similar to the new Arizona law, or do you feel it would infringe on the constitutional rights of legal citizens?
Haley: "I absolutely would. We are a country of immigrants, but more importantly, we are a country of laws. When you give up being a country of laws, you give up everything this country was founded on."
Sheheen: "I think first we ought to enforce the law we have. (Gov. Mark) Sanford and his administration have not enforced the law or provided the resources to (the State Law Enforcement Division) to enforce the law. ... As governor, I'll make sure that's done. We've basically done most of what the Arizona law does. I supported that and voted for it. If there are other changes that need to occur, I'll work with the General Assembly to make sure they occur."