Nikki Haley’s Arizona-Style Immigration Crackdown


South Carolina is poised to become the latest state to enact an anti-immigration bill modeled on the drastic law in Arizona that ignited a national debate. The Wall Street Journal reports that on Tuesday, the South Carolina legislature passed a bill that “requires police in South Carolina to check suspects’ immigration status” if they are stopped for a traffic offense or arrested otherwise, mirroring one of the most controversial provisions in the Arizona law. Governor Nikki Haley’s spokesman confirmed to the Journal that she will sign the bill.

Before Arizona passed its law last year, South Carolina was considered to have some of the country’s strictest laws against illegal immigrants. The states’s new law will also require that all businesses check the immigration status of new hires through a federal online database called E-Verify.

Though Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants, she has maintained a hardline immigration stance, in line with her other hard-right views. “My parents are immigrants, they came here legally, they put in the time, they put in the money, they did what they were supposed to. It makes them mad when they see illegal immigrants come into this state,” Haley declared in a 2010 campaign video. Having praised Arizona’s immigration law, Haley was long expected to support a similar effort in her own state.

With Haley’s backing, South Carolina will soon join a handful of states that have passed sweeping anti-immigration laws since Arizona, including Alabama, Georgia, and Indiana. Though a federal court prevented Arizona from enacting some of the most controversial parts of its law, states have continued to follow Arizona’s lead, despite the legal challenges they’re likely to face. Stay tuned for my in-depth account of these new immigration battles later this week.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.