SC House proposal mirrors Arizona's tough new immigration law

A group of Republican state lawmakers are pushing to beef up South Carolina's illegal immigration laws to resemble Arizona's controversial new policies.

Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, introduced a bill, H.4919, on April 29 to require state and local law enforcement officers to make a "reasonable attempt" to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally and arrest without a warrant and deport those unable to produce such proof, according to the legislation.

Anyone able to produce a valid driver's license or other government-issued forms of photo identification would be presumed to be in the country legally. The bill also requires local law enforcement agencies to check the immigration status of someone arrested for violating state or local law before releasing them from custody.

More than 25 state Republican lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, including Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton. Herbkersman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The bill also bans employers from unlawfully hiring and picking up undocumented workers in cars and trucks while impeding traffic and prohibits workers from getting into motor vehicles that are illegally stopped in the right-of-way.

Bedingfield, who was also unavailable for comment Wednesday, told Greenville television station, WSPA, that the bill was "virtually the same" as a controversial new law in Arizona that has re-ignited the immigration debate nationwide.

Signed into law by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23, the legislation requires immigrants to carry identification and proof they are in the country legally or face arrest and deportation. The law also gives police the ability to verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being illegal.

According to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, there are few comparisons to be made between Arizona's illegal immigrant population and that of South Carolina. More than 575,000 illegal immigrants reside in Arizona, while somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 call South Carolina home, according to the study.

Bedingfield's bill appears unlikely to become law this year because it was filed the same day as the legislature's "crossover deadline," a date by which bills must pass from one chamber to the other. The bill was not voted upon and was instead referred to the House Judiciary Committee.The legislation will now need two-thirds approval to even be considered.

If no action is taken on the bill by the end of the legislative session June 3, it would have to be reintroduced for the 2011-12 session.