A state Senate subcommittee meets this morning to discuss a bill that would empower local police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or detain.
However, it's too late in the legislative session for the bill, which mimics Arizona's controversial law, to become state law this year. That leads critics and political watchers to believe today's meeting is more about political theater than creating a new law.
"By doing it when they don't actually have time to pass the legislation, they get credit for the symbolic stand without having to worry about how to fund the measure," said Scott Huffman, a Winthrop University political science professor.
However, Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who will lead this morning's meeting, said that is not the case. None of the five members of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee are up for re-election, he said.
"We are not playing to anybody," he said. "It's not a pandering-type thing."
Instead, he said, the hearing's purpose is to find out if legislators need to "tweak" South Carolina's immigration law that was passed in 2008 and to compare Arizona's law to it.
The Senate bill would allow state and local police to check immigration status after detaining or arresting a person for another reason. The officer would need reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.
People questioned would have to provide identification issued by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, a tribal enrollment card or an ID issued by the U.S. government. The bill also includes a provision that would outlaw the hiring of illegal immigrants for day labor.
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