Charleston Chamber of Commerce calls on Rep. Sanford for immigration reform

Mark Sanford

Immigration reform is dead this year, many in Washington predict, but the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is urging that something be done, even calling on U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford to join in.

"Congress can no longer ignore the economic need for substantive reform," Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday.

At a news conference timed to coincide with a national call for action by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Derreberry said the Charleston region could suffer in terms of lost talent, along with seasonal tourism and shortages of agricultural workers, unless reforms are enacted.

The effort was part of a "Day of Action" that targeted more than 60 congressional districts across 25 states, according to its press materials, including in South Carolina's coastal 1st District where Republican Sanford is the incumbent.

Derreberry specifically called on Sanford to get involved.

Sanford issued a statement Wednesday saying comprehensive reform appears unlikely in the short-term climate, and pointed to the recent mass influx of children across the southern border as a problem that needs to be addressed first.

"In the year that I've been in Congress, there's been earnest debate in the House of Representatives on the issue and at this point, there are two main takeaways," he said. "The first is with (Majority Leader) Eric Cantor's loss, the likelihood that any immigration reform will come to the floor this year is low. The second is that as we can see with the current situation at the border, there is still a need, as I've been saying from the time of the campaign forward, to secure the border before working on other reforms."

Derreberry said that without reform, numerous issues are in play in the Lowcountry, including having enough skilled builders for the housing industry. "Immigrants also play an important role in South Carolina entrepreneurship," he said.

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Steven Mungo, CEO of Mungo Homes, was at the chamber event and noted that the loss of skilled workers from other countries who take jobs Americans don't want can have a ripple affect.

Last month, the Charleston Chamber released a "Talent Demand Analysis" that said the area will add 25,000 new jobs in the next five years. Most of the new jobs will be in the science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551