In South Carolina and Elsewhere, Look Local for Leadership on Immigration

June 3, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As candidates continue to throw their hats into the ring for 2016, early-voting states are showing their support for immigration.

South Carolina is a good example: The state is home to the newest Republican candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who coasted through his 2014 Senate primary a year after co-sponsoring comprehensive immigration reform as a member of the Senate “Gang of Eight.”

Conservative faith, law enforcement and business leaders in South Carolina have made clear that they want broad solutions to our broken immigration system. Just last week, the Rev. Robbie McAlister of Riverbend Church in Lexington penned an op-ed urging candidates for president in 2016 to engage in a different conversation about immigrants and immigration.

In many ways, South Carolina represents a microcosm of our nation, with changing demographics and broad understanding and appreciation for increasing diversity. It’s not alone among unlikely states where real leadership on immigration is emerging: In Nebraska, Iowa and Alabama, conservative voices are speaking in favor of a more compassionate conversation about immigration and for action from Congress.

Last week the Nebraska legislature, in a 34-10 vote, overrode the governor’s veto and allowed Dreamers to seek driver’s licenses. Conservative business and faith leaders led the way and cheered the result.

And, like McAlister, pastors John Opgenorth and John Shaull in Iowa and Alan Cross in Alabama also are calling for a different conversation from candidates on immigrants and immigration.

“While Congress continues to sidestep, Republicans and Democrats around the country are advancing the immigration conversation,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “They recognize that America thrives when immigrants have access to the opportunities, skills and status that allow them to reach their fullest potential. And they expect more from Congress and the candidates.”