Residents voice opinions on immigration reform at N. Charleston hearing

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – State lawmakers stirred up support for another Arizona-style immigration law with a heated public hearing in North Charleston Thursday night.

Nearly 100 people came out to tell local leaders what they think about immigration reform.

The loss of a husband, rape and loss of an opportunity for education are not things you would expect to hear at an immigration reform hearing, but that is exactly what was said Thursday night in North Charleston.

Cindy Bales told the subcommittee about the death of her husband, Randy Bales, in 2008.

"He was on his way to work when an illegal alien, Abel Martinez, ran a red light at Aviation and Feign, struck him and killed him," Bales said.

Bales also said that Martinez was only charged with a $474 bail and within 24 hours, Martinez posted bail and skipped town. She says she wants something to be done.

"Get them off the roads, punish them and keep them in jail or deport them," Bales said. "If they're illegal and don't have a license they don't need to keep doing this."

Other people showed up and voiced their opinions to a special state senate subcommittee to study immigration reform issues in the state Thursday.

Senator Glenn McConnell says he wants South Carolina law enforcement to play a bigger role in regulating immigration reform and wanted to hear what the public thought.

Others said giving the state more discretion on immigration could cause problems for immigrants who are not illegal.

"It can lead to racial profiling," one person said at the meeting. "Law enforcement stopping people and challenging them because of their color, appearance, accent. We think it's Un-American."

Victoria Middleton with the American Civil Liberties Union said she understands the current immigration process needs reform, but we can't forget people's rights

"We need to remember the constitution affords equal protection and due process to all persons in the country and we can't take away people's rights to that process," Middleton said.

In the spring, a judiciary subcommittee discussed a bill that would have created an Arizona-style immigration law in S.C. The bill never moved out of the subcommittee, but the hearings were heated as lawmakers, public officials and the general public clashed over how the state should enforce immigration laws.

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