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      Immigration reform could impact SC's growing Hispanic population

      The Palmetto State could see a significant effect from immigration reform, according to Roberto Belen with the South Carolina Immigration Coalition.

      SUMTER, SC (WACH) -- Federal lawmakers are considering overhauling immigration laws to establish an easier path to citizenship for millions of illegals, and the Palmetto State could see a significant effect from that reform, according to Roberto Belen with the South Carolina Immigration Coalition.

      In his work with the 2010 census, Belen says he found the Hispanic population had increased by 148 percent from 2000 to 2010 -- the biggest influx of Hispanics in the nation.

      According to Belen, the 13-year path to citizenship introduced in the US Senate's immigration reform bill could help bring many of the Hispanics in South Carolina out of survival mode.

      "They're not living the American Dream, and they're just hiding, and we're getting the benefit from their labor," said Belen. "The prices of our food are low, the construction workers and the construction industry have their workers available for making our economy go."

      About 40 percent of all undocumented people in the US overstayed their visas. The rest were undocumented from the start, says Belen.

      The new bill from the US Senate would provide a path to citizenship for both groups and beef up border security.