South Carolina has moved one step closer to requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they arrest, stop for a traffic violation or question on suspicion of breaking the law.
The S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that now must be voted on by the full senate. The earliest that could happen is Thursday, but people familiar with the state's Legislature said it is not likely to move that quickly.
Besides requiring police to check immigration status, the bill would allow local residents to sue their police and sheriff's departments if they believe the local law enforcement officials are ignoring the state mandate. Critics of the bill said it will encourage racial profiling even though the bill specifically addresses that issue by forbidding law enforcement to stop someone because of their race or national origin.
The bill also tweaks the state's immigration laws that were created in 2008. Its biggest impact on businesses would be a measure that requires the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to begin charging fines to companies that do not comply with a requirement to verify the residency status of its workers.
The labor department has been allowed to waive the fines because lawmakers were concerned about catching businesses off guard as they introduced new hiring practices. However, senators who support the bill think businesses have had enough time to implement the law.