Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday a new law enforcement initiative to ensure that no South Carolina municipalities become "sanctuary cities," with a pledge to establish - in state law - a mechanism through which local officials must annually prove compliance with existing immigration laws.
Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Bannister, the proposed legislation would supplement existing law requiring reasonable efforts be made to determine whether a person in custody and charged with a criminal offense is an unlawful alien.
Several cities across the nation have declared themselves to be sanctuary cities through local ordinances. Proponents argue that sanctuary cities reduce the fear of deportation and possible family break-ups among those who are in the country illegally. The hope of proponents is that, with these fears allayed, these folks will be more willing to report crimes, use health and social services and enroll their children in school.
"Our cities are open to all who follow our laws, but are not sanctuaries for those who ignore them,” said McMaster. “South Carolina is a special place, known for the kindness and welcoming nature of its people, but it’s also a place that values law and order, and this bill will serve as a strong message to all that we will not tolerate lawlessness."
Bannister alleged that "right now, the public has no way of knowing if local municipalities are complying with state and federal immigration laws."
"This bill provides a necessary fix, and reaffirms our commitment to law and order,” he said.
The legislation would also require political subdivisions – defined as any local government entity eligible for funding from the Local Government Fund – to verify compliance with state immigration laws to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) before July 1 of each fiscal year.
If a political subdivision is found not to be in compliance, that subdivision will be ineligible for Local Government Fund appropriations for a minimum of three consecutive fiscal budget years, and will be subject to SLED oversight.