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South Carolina State Immigration Laws

Learn the basics of South Carolina state immigration laws. This article offers information on some of the fundamental rights of immigrants in South Carolina. We will discuss the following topics:

This article covers the basic rights and responsibilities that migrants should know. Remember that immigration laws may vary in every state.

Law Enforcement and Immigration in South Carolina

Federal government agencies work with local authorities to manage immigration laws. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 287(g) explains this cooperation.

Through Section 287(g), states have authority by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to do certain functions of immigration officers. The local government helps identify immigrants with criminal charges.

The following are the 287(g) participating offices in South Carolina:

  • Horry County Sheriff's Office
  • Lexington County Sheriff's Office
  • York County Sheriff's Office

Meanwhile, the following are some of the government entities that handle immigration matters all over the United States:

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — DHS safeguards the U.S. from security threats. The department manages immigration enforcement, border security, and emergency response coordination. It also handles immigration-related issues.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — USCIS oversees the immigration of people to the United States. USCIS processes citizenship, green cards, visas, and other immigration benefits.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — Safeguards the integrity of the U.S. immigration system. ICE focuses on the enforcement of immigration laws. It also conducts investigation and detention of those who violate these laws.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — Combats a wide range of criminal acts in the country. This includes crimes related to immigration, such as smuggling, human trafficking, visa fraud, and more.

Employment Checks and E-Verify

On June 27, 2011, the amendments to South Carolina's Illegal Immigration and Reform Act (SCIIRA) became law. The South Carolina law requires all employers in the state to enroll with the DHS's E-Verify system.

The E-Verify system checks the employment authorization of workers. An employer who fails to enroll with E-Verify could face sanctions. The employer could lose their business license or get probation. Similar sanctions may apply to private employers who hire immigrants without proper documentation.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) of South Carolina investigates employment complaints. LLR conducts random audits to ensure employers follow verification laws.

E-Verify use is mandatory for all public and private employers in South Carolina. E-Verify is a free online system that the DHS maintains. The system compares the employee's information with the database and examines their eligibility to work in the U.S.

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Applicants for driver's licenses in South Carolina must show proof of identification. The following are some of the acceptable documents:

  • U.S. passport
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of current address
  • Evidence of name change (if applicable)

For non-U.S. citizens in South Carolina, designated DMV branches process their applications. There is a separate checklist for noncitizens.

Immigrants without proper documentation in South Carolina can't get a driver's license.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Immigrants living in South Carolina illegally cannot access most public benefits. For instance, they are not eligible to get the following:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Medicaid

But, they may use services necessary for health and safety. These services include the following:

  • Emergency health care
  • Emergency Medicaid
  • Emergency shelter
  • Child health care
  • Access to health care and nutrition programs

Education Restrictions

Students without proper documentation in South Carolina cannot get the following benefits:

  • College in-state tuition rates
  • Student aid or scholarships

The same rules apply to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

Immigrants living in South Carolina legally can get these education benefits. They can show a permanent resident card or visa documents.

Voting ID Rules

South Carolina requires voters to show valid and current photo ID to vote. Some of the accepted identification documents are:

  • Voter registration card with picture
  • Driver's license
  • Department of motor vehicles ID card
  • U.S. passport
  • Federal military ID

Housing Ordinances and Immigration

Under the Fair Housing Act of the United States, discrimination in housing is illegal. People, regardless of their immigration status, have a right to equal access to housing. This rule applies whether they rent, buy, mortgage, or seek housing aid.

Related Resources

South Carolina has various charities, organizations, and nonprofit organizations that give aid to immigrants. These legal resources also help victims of human trafficking or domestic violence. Some of these resources are as follows:

  • Know Your Rights — A guide to protecting yourself and your family during immigration raids (PDF, CASA of Maryland, and other organizations).
  • Catholic Charities Immigration Services — Helps with various immigration-related issues. The organization also helps victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. It can help with VAWA petitions for U visas or T visas.
  • Immigrant Connection at El Camino — Helps people navigate the immigration system by offering lower-cost services. It's in Greenville.
  • Immigrant Worker Compliance — Resources and guidelines about the employment of immigrants in South Carolina (S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation).
  • Immigration to South Carolina — Resources for immigrants to South Carolina (U.S. Immigration Support).

Learn More About Immigration Law: Seek Legal Help From an Immigration Lawyer

Local law enforcement related to immigration law is hard to understand. This is particularly true for people facing deportation or removal.

But it is important to remember that you are not alone. South Carolina has immigration attorneys who can offer legal services. They can give legal assistance depending on your case. The following are the most common legal immigration services that immigration attorneys offer:

  • Processing of U.S. visa
  • Applying for U.S. citizenship or naturalization
  • Getting lawful permanent residency or green card application
  • Applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Petitioning family members to the U.S.
  • Legal representation in immigration court
  • Other matters related to immigration law
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