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Building Bridges: The Vital Role of Immigrants in South Carolina

The Floyd Law Firm PC > News > Building Bridges: The Vital Role of Immigrants in South Carolina
Building Bridges: The Vital Role of Immigrants in South Carolina

In the intricate mosaic of South Carolina’s history, immigrants have played a vital role, contributing resilience, entrepreneurship, and cultural diversity. At The Floyd Law Firm, we advocate for understanding and compassion while navigating the complex landscape of immigration law. As we dispel prevalent myths, let’s explore the statistical realities that underscore the need to embrace immigrants and recognize their profound impact on our state. Our commitment to serving our community extends to recognizing the historical significance of immigration in South Carolina and understanding the present challenges and opportunities it presents.

The Complex Reality of Legal Immigration

A common misconception is that immigrating to the United States legally is a straightforward process. In reality, the intricacies of immigration law rival the complexity of the tax code. Rutgers law professor Elizabeth Hull aptly compares immigration law to the Internal Revenue Code in terms of its legal intricacy. The reality is stark: navigating the immigration system is arduous, with limited avenues for legal entry.

There are four primary categories of green cards, each with its own set of criteria and limitations. These include family-based green cards, employment-based green cards for skilled workers, refugee and asylum green cards, and diversity green cards allocated by lottery. The demand for these limited slots far exceeds the available supply, leaving many immigrants with no viable path to lawful immigration. Additionally, the absence of a green card category for low-skilled workers further complicates matters, leading to unauthorized immigration as the only perceived option.

From family-based green cards to employment-based options for skilled workers, the pathway is challenging. The diversity green card, distributed by lottery to 50,000 applicants with at least a high school degree, saw a staggering 23 million people vying for 50,000 slots in 2017. Temporary guest worker visa programs exist but are highly regulated, expensive, and employer-sponsored – providing limited relief for those seeking opportunities.

Dispelling Myths about Welfare and Budget Impacts

Contrary to common misconceptions, immigrants contribute positively to the U.S. welfare system. Research and statistical evidence shows that immigrants use significantly less welfare than existing U.S. citizens, and if native-born Americans accessed benefits at immigrant rates, the welfare state would shrink by 43%, equivalent to more than $1.3 trillion.

Similarly, the belief that immigrants strain government budgets is debunked by the National Academies of Sciences. Their research indicates that immigrants in the United States have a net-zero effect on government budgets, paying in taxes about as much as they consume in benefits – contributing positively to state and federal government coffers. The NAS model emphasizes age and education as critical factors, revealing that less-educated immigrants have a more positive fiscal impact when arriving at a younger age.

Immigration in South Carolina Past and Present

The history of immigration in South Carolina is a tapestry woven with the stories of various communities. From the original indigenous peoples over 13,000 years ago – to the waves of European immigrants in the 1700s – South Carolina’s cultural diversity is deeply rooted.

Today, South Carolina has one of the smallest immigrant populations in the country, comprising just 5% of residents. The 2011 amendments to South Carolina’s Illegal Immigration and Reform Act (SCIIRA) reflect the evolving landscape, requiring employers to enroll with the DHS’s E-Verify system for employment authorization checks.

As remote work has become a norm, employers still need to ensure they verify the identity and employment eligibility of new hires. Traditionally, this involved a physical document inspection. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is adapting to this new remote reality. The E-Verify program, often met with skepticism, has seen a shift in perception. Employers, initially concerned about potential audit triggers, have recognized its advantages, especially with the flexibility introduced during the COVID-19 era. The recent final rule allowing optional remote document inspection has further highlighted these benefits. Looking ahead, the introduction of NextGen to E-Verify promises to streamline onboarding processes, potentially minimizing errors that may have triggered government audits in the past.

Supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Refugees are individuals who escape their home countries due to a genuine fear of persecution based on factors such as race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. They hail from diverse parts of the world, representing various nationalities, origins, and cultures. It’s crucial to note that refugees differ from immigrants. While both are foreign-born, immigrants choose to leave their home country voluntarily, whereas refugees are compelled to flee due to persecution or oppression.

Those seeking refuge in the United States under Section 207 of the INA go through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). This program is a collaborative effort between the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), providing a structured process for individuals outside the U.S. seeking admission as refugees.

The President decides how many refugees to welcome to the United States each year and there is no set minimum or maximum limit under U.S. law. The number is determined by the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions and driven by humanitarian concerns or as deemed in the national interest. South Carolina, approved to resettle just around 600 refugees, works in tandem with humanitarian organizations to facilitate their transition.

Economic Contributions of Immigrants

Beyond their cultural enrichment, immigrants play a pivotal role in South Carolina’s overall financial wellbeing. Immigrant-led households contribute billions of dollars in spending power, while immigrant entrepreneurs drive business growth and innovation. From tourism and hospitality to manufacturing and construction – immigrants fill vital roles in industries facing labor shortages.

Immigrants significantly contribute to South Carolina’s economy. In 2018, residents in immigrant-led households had $5.9 billion in spending power. Immigrant entrepreneurs, numbering 23,670, generated $719.6 million in business income. This economic impact extends to the tourism sector, where Myrtle Beach must rely on visa workers and the H-2B program to sustain its seasonal workforce.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported nearly 170,000 job openings in South Carolina in 2023, with a stark gap of 43 available workers for every 100 jobs. The need for immigrant workers spans various industries to fill critical roles and build up the state’s workforce, business environment, and quality of life.

Compassion and Legal Guidance: Navigating the Complexities of Immigration Law

Celebrate the diverse tapestry of South Carolina and foster compassion and understanding towards immigrants. The Floyd Law Firm remains dedicated to offering skilled legal counsel amidst the challenging terrain of immigration law. Whether pursuing citizenship, asylum, or to understand one’s immigration rights, we invite you to contact us for a confidential consultation.

Immigrants are not just part of South Carolina’s past; they are integral to its present and future. Their contributions span across economic, cultural, and social spheres – enriching our state and reflecting the spirit of diversity and teamwork that defines the United States.

Learn More 

National Academies of Sciences: Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration 

South Carolina History

SCDSS Refugee Resettlement Program 

Immigration Law

Immigration Legal Services: Understanding and working to protect your rights

Immigration & Employment Law – Ensuring Compliance in the Workplace

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