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Feds call South Carolina Senate refugee bill 'illegal'

Sparks flew during a South Carolina Senate debate over a controversial bill affecting refugees. (Tara Petitt)

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - A letter from the Federal Government is warning South Carolina's Department of Employment and Workforce that a refugee bill making its way through the Senate would break federal law and put businesses at risk. Some lawmakers say this could potentially kill the whole bill.

Well-placed sources say the refugee measure is just asking to get hit with a federal lawsuit. According to federal law, any person who is in the United States legally, refugee or not, has a right to certain things, and sources say this bill breaks the law.

"The best term for these people are Barbarians! And they want to kill us," said Sen. Lee Bright Thursday. He is sponsoring a measure that makes refugees' personal information public. It would also deny them benefits, and it faces stiff opposition from Democrats.

"What this bill does on its face is it discriminates against people from specific countries, so I think the bill is unconstitutional," said Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto.

The measure has been referred to as an anti-terrorism bill, but a letter from the federal government refers to it as illegal.

The measure would require refugees placed in South Carolina through the refugee resettlement program to enroll with the Department of Social Services. The information would, then, be available on the DSS website for anyone to see. Information includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, job status, criminal records, and other personal data. It would also include information about a refugee's unemployment payments. According to the letter obtained by WACH FOX News, the Department of Labor says this information is confidential and may not be disclosed except as authorized under federal law.

The measure also blocks any kind of state or local funding from being spent on a refugee in South Carolina.


"We've got this problem in Minnesota where Immigrants and Refugees flock to Minnesota that have as many as ten thousand refugees and they take advantage of all the welfare programs. Now, if we can come to some common ground on some very essential services, law enforcement, education, and if we can back away from food stamps and Medicaid, all the other kind of benefits that the refugees may take advantage of," said Sen. Kevin Bryant who supports the legislation.


According to the letter, Bryant's proposal not only breaks the law, but could also cost South Carolina businesses millions of dollars. Under federal law, a state may not bar an individual from receiving unemployment compensation because of refugee status. If someone refuses to provide services, that organization will lose all federal dollars allocated to the service. According to the department of Labor, all federally funded programs in the state could be at risk.

The Senate continues debate next week. The letter from the Department of Labor has yet to be discussed on the senate floor. The Feds are requesting a response from the Department of Employment and Workforce.

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