Sanford discusses immigration with reform group

Associated Press Updated: December 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm • Published: December 9, 2013 0

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Rep Mark Sanford says he would support a stronger work visa program as a way to deal with the nation's immigration issues.

But Sanford says he does not support a comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate last June that would increase border security and create a 13-year wait for citizenship for those living in the country illegally.

The South Carolina Republican met with more than 200 people on Hilton Head Island on Sunday for a session set up by the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition, a group that supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Many in the crowd let Sanford know their fears about being deported and their hopes for citizenship.

One woman tearfully told how her husband was picked up and deported after living in the United States for 17 years. She told the congressman she doesn't have money to buy her three children Christmas presents and had to sell a car to pay rent.

Beth McCafferty, who teaches English as a second language, told how a former student's widowed father was arrested for a traffic infraction last spring and was deported. The student was left in the care of another student's family and neither student returned to classes in the fall, she said.

Sanford said he could not support the comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate because of questions about its cost and about enforcing the proposal.

He said he would support a stronger work visa program used until 1964 that allowed immigrants to obtain temporary work permits. Sanford said Democratic comprehensive reform plans don't include the work visa provision.

"Even if comprehensive reform plans are passed, there will still be large numbers of illegal immigrants in industries like construction. We're not fixing what's driving the problem if we don't address work visas," the congressman said.

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