Immigrants R Us

By Tom Turnipseed
Columbia, SC

The South Carolina Legislature is considering an anti-immigrant bill much like Arizona’s draconian law. It requires police to check a person’s residency status when stopped or detained for any reason and makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to solicit work.  Opponents of the bill say it would lead to racial profiling, marginalize the state’s Hispanic community and polarize the state.  On May 28, people who oppose the bill dominated public comment before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee claiming it was un-American and racist.

Bill Bunch, a small-business owner said “It smacks of racism and it smacks of pandering. You’re using these people as pawns for your own political gain.”

I serve on the Board of the S.C. Hispanic Leadership Council. Our Board President, Lad Santiago, told the legislators, “It polarizes our community by allowing for overt distinction of physical attributes and a law that allows this is an affront to all that is fair and just in America.”

Exactly what is fair and just in this land of immigrants? Discrimination and injustices against the “shanty Irish” or the Chinese “yellow peril” because of their race and ethnicity was certainly not fair or just. Over 400 years ago people from Europe migrated to what is now the United States and since then immigrants have come here from every country and region of the world. From the dawn of human history, people have constantly migrated all over the world.  But as Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

A consensus of historians agree that indigenous people, also known as Native Americans or Indians, were in the Americas at least 10,000 years before the European Christopher Columbus “discovered” America in 1492. Many Native Americans are descendants of people who lived in the southwest and far western region of what is now the United States. Their forebears were there thousands of years before white Europeans came to this continent. They are now called “illegal immigrants” by race-baiting politicians.

When the Spanish arrived in the Americas, Europe was ravaged by war, oppression, religious fanaticism, disease and starvation.  Native Americans were generally healthy, and mostly peaceable. Columbus sold his sponsors on the idea he would find a passage to China and the riches of the Orient, but “discovered” the Americas instead, so he decided to pay for his voyage in a commodity he found in ample supply—human lives.  He seized 1,200 Tiano Indians from the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), crammed them onto his ships, and sent them to Spain, where they were paraded naked through the streets of Seville and sold as slaves in 1495.  Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work as slaves for his family and followers throughout the Caribbean.

It was cheaper to work Indians to death and replace them than keep them alive.  In California the native people were forced to work in the fields on a starvation diet. They died from overwork, starvation and disease and were continually replaced, wiping out the indigenous populations.

As a descendant of Choctaw Indians I despise the nationalistic and historically blind rhetoric we hear about immigration.

European conquest of Mexican Native Americans exemplifies such blindness. European Americans under the flag of the United States took the land from these indigenous Americans in the Mexican Wars. Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, and the new Mexican republic included present-day Mexico and the territory that today constitutes five southwestern states and more territory further north.

In 1835 United States settlers in Texas revolted against Mexico, fought at the Alamo in 1836, and formed their own republic. In the years that followed, the United States pushed farther westward. The imperial doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the belief that God had destined the United States to be bordered on the east and west by the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, was used to justify the United States’ encroachment upon Mexican territories. It finally provoked a war in 1846 that enabled the United States to take almost half of Mexico’s territory.

Hard-working Mexicans in the United States had ancestors who lived in the Southwestern part of what is now the United States for thousands of years before there was a United States. Their ancestors were forcibly removed by the United States.  Should they be treated as undocumented criminals?

The best solution to the immigration question is comprehensive immigration reform legislation at the federal level that will:

  • Provide a path to permanent resident status and citizenship for all members of our communities;
  • Reunite families and reduce immigration backlogs;
  • Secure the border in a humane way;
  • Punish unscrupulous employers who drive down wages and make it hard for honest employers to compete in today’s economy;
  • And provide rights to all workers in the United States.

Such Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation must also be enforced primarily by the federal government.  The Arizona and proposed South Carolina laws, in  practice, will take even more resources away from state and local law enforcement who need to focus on apprehending real criminals who steal and commit violent crimes rather than on poor and peaceful working people who harvest our crops, construct our homes and do service work for our travel and hospitality industry.

A fair and just America must live the promise we make to the world.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
[Emma Lazarus]

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. Read his blog here.

Activists rally to restore HIV funding in state budget bill

Rep. Joe Neal, who also serves as the SC Progressive Network’s Co-chair, speaks at the rally May 25.

Advocates working on behalf of South Carolinians with HIV/AIDS rallied at the State House yesterday morning to pressure the legislature to restore the funding for critical services that the House proposed to cut in its budget bill. Reps. Joe Neal and Bakari Sellers addressed the crowd, praising them for staying vigilant and standing for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

The rally was organized by the SC Campaign to End AIDS, a member of the SC Progressive Network.

The House cuts would end all state funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and drug assistance, would limit prescription drugs for Medicaid patients and cap enrollment in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Later in the day, the Senate rejected the cuts to health care. The bill now goes to conference committee. (See story in The State.) The Senate has named Sens. John Land, D-Clarendon, Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and Mike Fair, R-Greenville, to the committee. The House has named Reps. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, and Dan Cooper, R-Anderson, to the committee.

Those committee members need to hear from us.

To see more photos from the rally, click here.

Speak up before budget cuts kill critical programs

Last week the S.C. House of Representatives adopted amendments to the state budget bill that eviscerated health and human services for low-income South Carolinians in order to plug a $20 million hole in the judiciary’s budget.

Instead of considering other logical revenue sources, they balanced the budget at the hard expense of the working poor and children. They gutted programs to come up with $24.3 million for the judiciary and $22.5 million for the Department of Public Safety.

This amendment includes:

  • Capping enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), leaving 70,000 to 100,000 eligible children without health insurance;
  • Cutting funds to the Department of Social Services that assist low-income households with children;
  • Limiting Medicaid patients to 3 drug prescriptions per month, down from at least 4 and up to 10 prescriptions, forcing the seriously ill to make potentially life-threatening medical decisions where they must treat one ailment at the expense of others;
  • Cutting prevention programs for kidney disease, HIV, breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer, and funding for AIDS treatment programs; and
  • Cutting grants to rural hospitals and funding to trauma centers.

Please contact your Senator today and ask him to vote to non-concur with the House amendments.  (You can locate your Senator by going here.)

While cutting these life-saving programs, the House found $240,000 to fund beach re-nourishment and $3 million, the exact amount cut from CHIP, to add to the House of Representatives operations budget.

One obvious and just way to raise revenue would be to increase the sales tax on luxury vehicles. At present, a person purchasing a yacht, a jet, or a luxury car in South Carolina pays the same $300 sales tax as the person buying the cheapest car on the lot so that he or she can get to work and support a family. Such a tax could bring South Carolina more than $100 million per year to fund basic services.

It is past time for our legislators to consider other revenue options, rather than continuing to cut essential programs for our state’s most vulnerable population.  There is no reason we should have to choose between public safety, a strong judiciary and caring for our neighbors in times of need.

This report was compiled by SC Appleseed.

SC Alliance for Retired Americans talk shop

The SC Alliance for Retired Americans held an informational drop-in on May 20 at the Modjeska Simkins House in Columbia. The national Alliance’s Bob Kearney and regional director Bill Cea outlined some of the more pressing issues facing seniors and retirees in 2010, including the new health care law, the Fiscal Commission and efforts to privatize Social Security.

SC ARA is one of 30 Alliance chapters in the country. To find out more or to get involved, email or call 803-957-8740.

Bill Cea

Bob Kearney

Click here to see more photos from the drop-in.

Rally to restore HIV funding May 25 at State House

Bambi Gaddist, SCHACCTF Chair
Gwen Bampfield, SCHACCTF Co-Chair

We have been informed by Rep. Joe Neal that once more, health care will sustain another blow. We thought most HIV/AIDS providers were aware that the House have retaliated for losing support of a veto for $20 million in new fees to support the states court system. However, after conversations with several in AIDS leadership we realized that our assumptions are incorrect. This may explain why we haven’t received communications from AIDS leadership expressing concern or proposing strategies to combat what could be interpreted as benign neglect from some of our states leadership.

The State newspaper on Thursday morning spelled it out to the world– so we assumed everyone knew that ALL ADAP and HIV prevention has been eliminated from the House amended budget presented Wednesday. Other cuts include loss of support for state health insurance programs for low-income children, new restrictions on medications funded by Medicaid, and elimination of cancer screenings and kidney disease prevention round out this reality.

We know that the Senate takes up the new House proposal on Tuesday, May 25. Rep. Neal noted that this moment is where the “rubber meets the road.” Either we are prepared to sacrifice today or as I was told, “we can’t come crying later.” Rep. Neal made it crystal clear that we either “show up and show out” or in my words-be prepared to deal with the realities if the House budget amendment passes. I appeal to the Task Force, college students, community citizens to come out on Tuesday, May 25, 9am to noon outside the State House.

We have been told to gather our own constituents once more. We must plead for sacrifices to be made to attend on Tuesday.

We call on all AIDS Directors, Task Force members, faith leaders, health officials, physicians, and community citizens to make the ultimate sacrifice to attend Tuesday morning.

As of yesterday, DHEC says our count is 112 individuals on the SC Wait List. All should be breaking down the doors of the House and Senate.  We hear frequently about advocates and PWA’s in northern and western states who stage rallies in support of HIV/AIDS. We ask that we all make every effort to bring our voice on Tuesday as we proud southerners demonstrate our ability to make a difference in our own lives.

SC prisoners with HIV segregated

According to Sentenced to Stigma, a joint report of the ACLU and Human Rights Watch released last month, prisoners in designated HIV units in South Carolina and Alabama face stigma, harassment and systemic discrimination that amount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Only South Carolina and Alabama continue the policy and practice, despite all public health, human rights, and practical arguments against it.

In South Carolina, HIV inmates are forced to wear armbands or other indicators of their HIV status, are forced to eat and worship separately, and are denied equal participation in prison jobs, programs and re-entry opportunities that facilitate their successful transition back into society.

There is no medical justification for segregation, which in fact causes harm that extends well beyond a person’s prison term, and only serves to inflame prejudices against people with HIV. The World Health Organization, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and other experts agree there is no medical basis for segregating prisoners with HIV within correctional facilities or for limiting access to jobs, education or vocational programs available to others.

South Carolina is also the only state in the union to prohibit prisoners with HIV from participating in work release programs, and the ACLU has called for a halt to these policies.

Care about seniors?

Get off the couch, and get active with the SC Alliance for Retired Americans!

Join us for a casual drop-in May 20, 5–6:30 pm

Modjeska Simkins House  •  2025 Marion St., Columbia

Hear Bob Kearney of the national Alliance for Retired Americans
talk about the most critical issues facing seniors in 2010.

The SC Alliance for Retired Americans needs YOU to help educate, energize and mobilize retirees and seniors in the Palmetto State. Join us, and help protect the health and economic security of South Carolina’s older citizens.

FREE and open to the public! Enjoy snacks, beverages and live music.

For more information, call 803-957-8740 or email

The new nullification

By Hoyt Wheeler

Is South Carolina once again taking up the old Confederate cause by attempting to nullify national laws? Nullification was the theory of South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun that provided philosophical grounds for our state seceding from the United States a century and a half ago.

In the past year or so, we have seen a number of actions in this direction.

Most visibly, Attorney General Henry McMaster’s response to the new federal health law. He proposes taking legal action against the federal government to block the federal law’s application in South Carolina — to nullify it. He describes this as defending “state sovereignty.” Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) McMaster has said that although at one time the Soviet Union was the enemy, now “The enemy is Washington, D.C.”

Like the tea party crowd with whom he sympathizes, he is confused about what part of the S.C. heritage he’s following. It is not the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag of the American Revolution that he is waving. It is the stars and bars of the Confederacy.

Then there is the current attempt to forestall proposed federal labor legislation by amending the state’s constitution to mandate that all matters of employee representation (unions) be decided by secret ballot. It is currently federal law that an employer has the right to demand a secret ballot election if a union requests recognition. Pending in Congress is the Employee Free Choice Act, which would require an employer to recognize a union upon being presented with cards signed by a majority of employees. Although this bill has some merit, there is little chance of this particular provision being adopted.

More importantly, whatever the merits of the federal legislation, this is a matter for the national government, not the individual states, to decide. As our state legislators well know, in an area of law such as this, where the national government has lawfully acted, state action is preempted. This amendment to the state constitution would be patently unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution.

Nowadays in our Legislature, we hear much about support for the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides simply that matters not delegated to the federal government are left to the states or the people. In principle this is not controversial. However, a number of actions have been taken under its mantle by South Carolina and other states in the past year to assert state power against the federal government.

Our Legislature has adopted a state sovereignty resolution, or 10th Amendment resolution. State Sovereignty bills considered by some states go one step further and declare that the state must take action against federal laws that the state deems to be unconstitutional. The position of our attorney general on the federal health law is in line with these state sovereignty bills.

At a Tea Party rally in Boiling Springs, at which Attorney General McMaster spoke, a pastor from North Carolina described our president as “a proud young man who appears not to have a clue about America’s godly heritage.” A tea party organizer dressed as Tom Paine said: “I’m not calling people to arms, yet. But that may be what it comes down to at the end of 2010.” We have a congressman who shouts at our president, calling him a liar. This is in a national context where a former vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, tells a Southern Republican Leadership conference: “Don’t retreat. Reload.”

I, for one, do not see these extreme statements and actions as reflecting the good sense, patriotism and good will of South Carolinians. We can, and should, raise our voices and speak through the ballot to rid ourselves of those extremist public officials who have made themselves a source of embarrassment to our state.

Hoyt Wheeler is a retired university professor and attorney living in West Columbia. His publications include The Future of the American Labor Movement and Workplace Justice Without Unions.

Ultrasound bill taken up in conference committee

Yesterday, the H.3245 (two-trip ultrasound) Conference Committee started the meeting with a prayer led by Sen. Bryant. In Senator Bryant’s prayer, he asked for guidance, wisdom, and for “a miracle because only a miracle from God will get us out of this conference committee.”

Chairman Kevin Bryant started the conversation with a side by side comparison of the Senate and House versions of the bill. Each side was able to voice their opinion on common ground items which include the effective date, severability clauses and the general concept of a 24-hour waiting period. The more controversial items including where the woman would receive the Woman’s Right to Know information, when the 24-hours clock would start, and an exception for rape and incest victims were debated in length.

Rep. Wendy Nanney expressed her initial intent of enforcing a 24 hour wait for all women even in a trauma. According to Nanney, trauma is the most vulnerable time for women and she is not thinking rationally, therefore a woman needs more time to think about her decisions regardless of rape and incest. Sen. Jake Knotts rebutted her claim by saying he would not be in favor of victimizing a woman for the second time with a governmental regulation.
Rep. Greg Delleney stated the House would not budge on the 24-hour time period starting when an ultrasound was performed.  He also called the meeting a “press conference” for each member. Senators Brad Hutto and Knotts informed the House that if they were not willing to negotiate on the 24 hour trigger than there was no need to continue with the conference committee.

Although Sen. Bryant did set a tentative next meeting for next Wednesday, he is requesting that each member of the Conference Committee work behind the scenes this week to possibly come up with proposals and agreements.

Subcommittee debates discriminatory teen dating violence bill; SC Equality seeks public input

Yesterday, the Senate K-12 Education Sub-Committee held another hearing on H3543, the Teen Dating Violence Bill. SC Equality, its lobbyist, and allied organizations like Sean’s Last Wish (a member of the SC Progressive Network) were present–with four witnesses who were prepared to present expert and personal testimony in opposition to the non-inclusive dating violence bill.

Although we were not given the opportunity to present our testimony, fair-minded members of the Senate–Senators Joel Lourie and Phil Leventis–gave voice to our position. They acknowledged that the current language of the bill is discriminatory and privileges some relationships over others, and they argued that the bill should not move forward in its current form.

As expected, Sen. Mike Fair rejected this argument and would not accept the bill without the amendment excluding same sex partners. Realizing that this one issue of defining a dating partner is the only thing that is holding up moving this otherwise sound bill forward, the Chair asked if there was a compromise position that could be taken that would satisfy both sides. Senators Leventis and Fair agreed to discuss this further outside of the hearing. Thus, no action was taken on the bill today.

SC Equality (a member of the SC Progressive Network) is fully committed to seeing that a non-discriminatory dating violence bill–one that protects all children equally–is passed. We will continue to aggressively monitor the progress of this legislation, and should another hearing be scheduled, we will have witnesses ready.

These witnesses will be your voice at the hearing–so we need to hear from you. Should we have an opportunity to testify or to speak with legislators individually, it would be extremely helpful to be able to share stories from those who have experienced dating violence, particularly from the perspective of gay youth. If you have had experiences that you would be willing to share, please contact us at We will respect all confidentiality.