Poll: Immigration bill gaining support in S.C. Scott votes against debating Graham-sponsored legislation

“I don’t watch too much news, I just work,” said Jose Ramirez as he searched for parts Friday at LKQ salvage yard in North Charleston, far from the debate in Washington. The mechanic, originally from El Salvador, lives in Moncks Corner.

Wade Spees

Immigration reform may face a long and tedious battle in Washington, but polling indicates South Carolinians want a solution to immigration sooner rather than later.

Harper Polling found that 67 percent of those surveyed in South Carolina find fixing immigration this year to be “very important.”

The bipartisan poll of 29 states was released Thursday, and was conducted by Harper, a relatively new GOP-leaning group, and Public Policy Polling, which leans Democratic. Harper handled the polling of South Carolina and 15 other states.

The poll was sponsored by the Alliance for Citizenship, the Partnership for a New American Economy and Republicans for Immigration Reform, three organizations supporting immigration reform.

Additionally, 62 percent of those polled said they either strongly support or somewhat support the immigration reform bill currently being debated by the Senate.

The legislation, authored by a so-called “Gang of Eight,” four Democrats and four Republicans, including South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, was officially opened to debate on the Senate floor this week with an 82-15 vote.

The 15 votes against bringing the bill for debate were all cast by Republicans, including S.C. Sen. Tim Scott.

“Our immigration system is broken, and needs to be fixed,” Scott said in a statement. “That process should start with securing the border, enforcing existing laws, and creating a workable, efficient system for future immigrants.”

Scott, of North Charleston, said the sweeping approach the bill puts a limit on efforts to tackle immigration in a targeted and responsible way.

“While I cannot support the current legislation, I am hopeful in the future we can move forward with a more tailored plan that accomplishes meaningful reform,” he said.

The legislation currently calls for a 13-year minimum before undocumented immigrants can officially file for United States citizenship. During that 13-year period, they must pay a fine for entering the country illegally and file for provisional immigrant status, among other requirements.

Diana Salazar of the Latino Association of Charleston said that Congress needs to move forward and give undocumented immigrants a chance to become a part of the U.S. legally.

“Our country still benefits from undocumented immigrants,” she said. “They should be given an opportunity to benefit from this country.”

Hispanic residents in the North Area on Friday shared their thoughts on the bill:

William Aguilon, a Colombia native, said he thinks the proposed legislation would benefit immigrants and the U.S.

“It’s the best way America can invest in the economy,” Aguilon said.

Aguilon also added that many immigrants don’t bother to learn English because they’re unsure of how long they’ll be in the country. He thinks immigration reform will prompt immigrants to learn the language.

Francisco Mackenzie is opposed to the proposed reform.

“What’s the benefit of giving amnesty to 13 million people?” Mackenzie said.

Jose Ramirez, a mechanic from El Salvador living in Moncks Corner, didn’t seem interested in the proceedings in Washington.

“I don’t watch too much news, I just work,” Ramirez said.

Eva Benitez was unsure about what effects immigration reform may have.

“It’s got good things and bad things,” Benitez said, citing that some immigrants own businesses and pay taxes, while acknowledging that some immigrants don’t benefit the country’s economy.

Mario Santana, who has begun his path to citizenship through the Dream Act, said immigration reform would help improve the bad reputation immigrants sometimes get.

“I think background checks should be used on everyone,” Santana said. “We don’t like the people who come here and do bad things.”

The Harper poll found that 56 percent of South Carolinians surveyed would be more likely to vote for an elected official who votes for the current legislation.

The survey also indicated that 23 percent would be less likely to vote for an official supporting the legislation, with 21 percent saying supporting the legislation would not make a difference in who they vote for.

Of the 538 respondents to the survey, 41 percent identified themselves as Republican, 37 percent identified themselves as Democrat and 22 percent were independents or were affiliated with another political party.

The immigration reform bill currently in the Senate will undoubtedly face prospects of added amendments, one of which has already been defeated.

An amendment strengthening the bill’s stance on border security was defeated 57-43 on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, would have required the U.S.-Mexico border to be under control for six months before any immigrant here illegally could obtain legal status.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has proposed an amendment that would recognize same-sex marriages in which one spouse is American.

CNN reported that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the Gang of Eight who authored the bill, has threatened to pull support for his own legislation if the same-sex marriage amendment passes a potential Senate vote.