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Trump immigration plan a nonstarter for South Carolina

When President Trump approved an Aug. 2 proposal that would slash immigration by half within a decade by limiting the ability of citizens and legal immigrants to bring family members into the country, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina immediately declared it a non-starter.

“South Carolina’s number one industry is agriculture and tourism is number two,” Graham said in a statement posted on his website Aug. 3. “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy which relies on this immigrant work force.publicSen. Lindsey Graham

“South Carolina’s agriculture and tourism industry advertise for American workers and want to fill open positions with American workers,” he added. “Unfortunately, many of these advertised positions go unfilled. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses and farmers will tell you this proposal to cut legal immigration in half would put their business in peril.”

The bill, advanced by two Republican senators, would award points based on education, ability to speak English, high-paying job offers, record of achievement and entrepreneurial initiative. It would allow some family members in, while eliminating preferences for other relatives, like siblings and adult children.

Currently, more than 1 million people are granted legal U.S. residency each year, most based on family ties. President Trump and the bill’s sponsors claimed low-skilled immigrants pushed down wages for native-born Americans, a charge countered by a raft of studies.

For example, studies show that the children and grandchildren of immigrants paid far more in taxes than they consumed in public services; are better educated than the average American; and rather than taking existing jobs, are almost twice as likely to start a small business as native-born Americans.

The only economist cited in support of the administration’s proposal, George J. Borjas of Harvard University, said in an interview Aug. 3, quoted in the New York Times, there was no economic justification for reducing skilled immigration. “That is a political decision, he said. “That is not an economic decision.”

Agriculture (farming, fishing and forestry) ranks first among the occupations immigrants held in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, with immigrants working in 46 percent of the jobs.

The studies are echoed by the voice of experience in South Carolina agriculture, Martin Eubanks, assistant commissioner of agriculture and a 32-year veteran in the department, who told The Produce News last year, “SCDA is still hoping the U.S. Congress will pass legislation giving the nation a reliable, legal and affordable seasonal labor force.”