Despite Budget Crisis, Nikki Haley Spends Millions On New Anti-Immigrant Police Force For South Carolina

South Carolina already has one of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the nation, but last week Gov. Nikki Haley (R) made it even tougher when she signed a bill modeled on Arizona’s notorious SB 1070. During the signing ceremony, the new governor declared, “Illegal immigration is not welcome in South Carolina.” Like legislation recently passed in Georgia and Alabama, South Carolina’s law will require police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and suspect may be in the country illegally.

But unlike other states, the law Haley signed allocates $1.3 million for a special “enforcement unit” of immigration cops:

Under the new law, employers in South Carolina will be required to use the federal E-Verify system to check the citizenship status of employees and job applicants. Penalties for knowingly employing illegal immigrants will include suspension and revocation of a business license by the state.

The law also creates a $1.3 million Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit within the state public safety department to serve as a liaison between local police and federal immigration officials. The unit will have 12 full-time officers, as well as its own unique uniforms and vehicle markings.

The unit will be formed after July 1 when the new state budget takes effect.

Haley, the child of legal immigrants and the first non-white governor of the state, bragged that the law will save money because undocumented immigrants will be denied state services. But civil rights groups like the ACLU are already planning to challenge the new law in court, which could cost South Carolina hundreds of thousands in legal fees. State ACLU Director Victoria Middleton said the law invites racial profiling. “It basically will subject anyone who looks or sounds foreign to discrimination,” Middleton added. A federal judge already blocked Georgia’s more moderate law from taking effect.


South Carolina faced a staggering budget deficit of $1.3 billion. Greg Torrales of the South Carolina Hispanic Leadership Council said the law is hypocritical for a governor who claims to be a fiscal conservative. “I challenge the governor to stick to the platform she ran on,” he said. “South Carolina cannot afford this law. It’s too expensive.”

Haley is already in trouble with fellow Republican lawmakers in the state over the budget. During a showdown, the legislature overrode most of Haley’s $200 million in vetoes out of the $6 billion budget. Lawmakers also “excoriated” her on the House floor for breaking several funding deals. The House and Senate restored millions in education funding and $108 million for items that include college maintenance, police gear, and training programs for workers, including those taking jobs at the new Boeing plant.