Aiken County Council takes up illegal immigration issue

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, August 22, 2007

AIKEN CTY, S.C.--The Aiken County Council is two thirds of the way toward making sure people here illegally don't get hired by the county government -- or even get money or services.

"We are trying to target the illegal aliens who should not be here and who have not come here through the legal system and we're trying not to make Aiken County a place where they can come and feel safe," says Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie.

Should this ordinance become law, it would penalize those county-funded agencies which knowingly employ, hire or recruit people here illegally.

"It also goes even further to say that the only way we can offer services is a matter of life threatening situations or to protect their civil liberties," adds McKenzie.

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls says crime numbers are high among illegal immigrants.

She says 30 percent of federal prisoners are illegal aliens. And a House Subcommittee Report on Homeland Security says hundreds of illegals from 35 suspect nations have been caught crossing the border.

"Several of us on council believe very strongly that both federal and state government are dropping the ball on this," says Councilman Gary Bunker.

There are concerns. Some agencies in Aiken County have a sole purpose of helping people.

"And we have to remember illegal aliens also have American Citizens in our county. That's a difficult thing to deal with," says McKenzie.

That's not the only difficulty. Enforcing the law is another question.

"If we know about it, we'll enforce it," adds McKenzie.

The bottom line here is "we don't care where you come from, as long as you are here legally. And if you're here legally welcome. If you're not, then go somewhere else," says McKenzie.

Another major part of this ordinance is making English the official language of Aiken County. There are 83 agencies which get money from the county through this years budget.

The third and final reading will be held on September 18th. That's when we'll find out if this will officially become law in Aiken County.

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