SPARTANBURG -- Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said lazy residents who don't want to take jobs harvesting the state's crops are the root of the South Carolina's problems with illegal immigration.
Bauer's remarks came Friday at the opening of a debate of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in Spartanburg. The candidates were asked about Arizona's new tough illegal immigration law and whether South Carolina should do more to fight the problem.
"The real problem is the workforce," Bauer said. State relief programs leave people unwilling to work the jobs in fields and orchards now filled with migrant workers, he said.
"The problem is we have a giveaway system in this country and in this state that is so strong that people would rather sit home and do nothing than do these jobs. Laziness is not a disability," Bauer said. "There are lot of people that are flat out lazy and they are using up the goods and services that we have in this state."
Bauer shared the stage with U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, state Rep. Nikki Haley and Attorney General Henry McMaster.
McMaster and Haley said afterward that Bauer was wrong.
"I'm proud of the people of our state. I think we have enormous potential and you'll never hear me criticize or complain about or be anything but proud of the people of this state," McMaster said.
Haley said the problem involved enforcement of one of the nation's toughest illegal immigration laws that the Legislature passed two years ago. "We need to look at the reform that was passed and make sure we have the funds in that prosecution account so that we're actually enforcing the law that was passed," Haley said.
For his part, Barrett stuck with remarks he made during the debate. He said the state should work with federal immigration officials to train local law enforcement. "If the federal government is not doing it, we need to take charge in South Carolina. It's one of the ways we can be in command," Barrett said.
Bauer didn't back away when asked about the remarks after the debate. "We have a generational problem with people that have learned to game the system," Bauer said. "And those people who would be doing a lot of these labor jobs will not do them. Therefore, we don't have a labor pool to fill these vacancies."