Immigration reform group from South Carolina headed to Washington

A group of South Carolina business and faith leaders — including from Charleston — will head to Washington on Monday to press the Republican-led House of Representatives to pass an immigration reform package and soon.

The contingent, part of a national effort calling itself “Americans for Reform,” will meet with key members of the state’s congressional delegation to discuss the “economic imperative of passing meaningful immigration reform this year.”

Among those participating is George Ramsey, business advocacy director with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Immigration reform has been among the most divisive of issues in Washington over the last decade, with the bulk of South Carolina’s delegation taking a skeptical view on what’s been offered so far.

President Barack Obama this week ramped up his call to pressure House Republicans to support the reform package already approved by the Senate, or put something else meaningful on the table. Most say November is the key time-frame to get the issue done.

Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the group’s local interest includes making sure the labor force remains strong enough to fill job opportunities in a changing landscape.

He pointed to needs in engineering, software, wind technology, cyber security and aerospace as just a few of the industries of the future.

“It’s about talent at all different levels,” he said.

Back in June, South Carolina’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, were split on the Senate bill. Graham, was one of the so-called “Gang of Eight” that helped write the bill. Scott voted against it, saying the proposal did not adequately secure the border. Charleston’s Republican 1st District Rep. Mark Sanford also expressed having issues with the measure when it came to southern border protection.

Among the lawmakers the group is scheduled to meet with Monday and Tuesday are Upstate S.C. Reps. Trey Gowdy, R-4th District, which includes around Greenville; and Mick Mulvaney, R-5th District, around Fort Mill. Both are seen as key links in the House’s immigration discussion.

Among the advocacy points outlined in the South Carolina group’s position statement are:

Increased access to high-skill and student visas.

Making low-skill, temporary visas easier to obtain, especially for the agricultural industry’s access to seasonal workers.

Border security and a stronger employer “e-verify” status process.

A solution for addressing the estimated 12 million of currently undocumented immigrants in the country, especially children who have grown up in the U.S. “and were brought here through no fault of their own,” the group’s listing said.



Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com

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