Rep. Mark Sanford talks immigration reform at town hall meeting

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., who was recently elected, finally held a town hall meeting to discuss immigration reform. The event, which took place on Sunday, Dec. 8, was one the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition has been lobbying for since Sanford took office.

Sanford meets with immigrants
About 200 people, most of them immigrants, showed up in Hilton Head to talk to Sanford about their everyday fears of deportation, or seeing a family member deported, and to urge him to work on fixing the nation’s immigration system.

In response, the congressman reiterated his objections to the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate over the summer, arguing that it didn’t address some of the most important issues, including temporary work visas. However, he did signal that he was ready to take a look at a step-by-step approach to reform, as is being advocated by many of his fellow House Republicans.

Sanford also pointed to the support he believes he has among voters in his district, saying that his position “represented the majority of the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina.”

South Carolina immigrants speak out
Like many politicians around the country, Sanford has been the subject of a lot of criticism for his stance on immigration reform. At the recent town hall meeting, much of that criticism took the form of the effect that the nation’s current immigration laws had on families.

“There is a collective consciousness of fear among students from immigrant families that their parents could be deported,” Beth McCafferty, who is an ESL teacher in South Carolina, told Sanford at the meeting. “Families are broken. It’s heartbreaking.”

McCafferty was one of many people who told a similar story at the event. Sanford responded to those heartfelt pleas by discussing the need to reform the work visa system, as well as his openness to taking a look at the DREAM Act.