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SC biz leaders call for immigration reform

COLUMBIA (AP) — Leaders of three key South Carolina industries – tourism, agriculture and homebuilding – are calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration policy this year.

“Our country’s immigration policy, everybody agrees, is broken but it’s time to fix the problem,” Chalmers Carr, the owner of Titan Farms in Ridge Spring said during a news conference Monday sponsored by the Partnership for a New American Economy.

On Thursday, GOP leaders in the U.S. House outlined a proposal providing for a path for millions of adults who live in the U.S. unlawfully to achieve citizenship in part by paying back taxes and fines.

A bill passed by the Senate last June would increase border security and create a 13-year wait for citizenship for those living in the country illegally.

Agriculture groups across the country announced they were joining the partnership in a monthlong nationwide campaign to push for immigration changes. The partnership’s website says it consists of more than 500 Republican, Democratic, and independent mayors and business leaders who support the effort.

Both Mark Nix, the executive director of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina, and John Durst, the president and CEO of the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, said opinions vary in their groups as to just what the immigration bill should look like.

But both said there is agreement comprehensive reform is needed so there is an adequate supply of labor for their industries.

Carr said any immigration changes must take place at the national level.

“States such as South Carolina have enacted laws that have affected agriculture and labor-dependent industries that have put us in a competitive disadvantage to other states which have not enacted these laws,” he said.

He said agriculture is encouraged the House leadership plans to bring up immigration this election year.

“But we are also very concerned about their statement that they will not go to conference committee with the Senate comprehensive bill. My question is where does this leave us?” he said. “We need to fix our broken immigration policy once and for all.”

“It’s a priority issue that we go back and we have comprehensive immigration reform which includes protecting our borders and making sure we bring in legalized immigrants who can do the skilled labor and having them paying taxes, learning the language and being part of the community,” Nix said.

“We are very encouraged about the developments that occurred late last week in that this is now a matter that apparently the House is going to take up,” Durst said. “Immigration reform is important. It’s important for all of us in South Carolina and now is the time for our legislators in Washington to act.”

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