South Carolina Immigration Law Loopholes Create Uneven Business Conditions

South Carolina’s new immigration laws, which were enacted on January 1, have proved stringent for most, except those in industries that help keep the state’s economy and wealthy households in better shape.

A little-known loophole in the South Carolina law has recently come into the public eye. While nearly all private employers in the state have to verify their employee’s permanent residency status or immigration status, agricultural laborers, ministers, fishermen and domestic workers, such as maids and nannies, are exempt from these checks.

“The migrant community operates on a whole different set of rules,” State Senator Larry Martin told local news source The State.

The decision to operate South Carolina’s immigration laws differently for the agricultural industry was driven in part by the fact that Alabama and Mississippi have experienced major labor shortages in the wake of their stringent immigration laws. According to The Associated Press, in December 2011, Alabama proposed using prison inmates to fill the large labor shortages that the state’s immigration laws had caused.

However, critics who have only recently heard of the state’s other immigration law loopholes find the offerings unfair to other business owners, especially local, family-owned businesses in the state, and gives private employers a leg up on their competition, according to The State.

Small business owners also believe that the sheer number of loopholes is largely making the entire bill moot.

“When you think of businesses that attract undocumented workers, you think of construction,” Frank Knapp, the executive director of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, told the source. “And then you think of agriculture and you think of domestic workers. So, two of the top three places an illegal immigrant might go are exempt.”