Immigration Groups Shift Focus to SC

Wednesday, 13 Mar 2013 11:22 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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Factions on both sides of immigration reform have staked out South Carolina in an effort to state their cases on this hot-button issue.

On Wednesday, a coalition of pro-reform groups began a major advertising and grassroots campaign in the state to argue for their side and to commend Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for his efforts on its behalf, the Hill reports.

This comes just weeks after NumbersUSA, a group that strongly opposes the bipartisan Senate framework for immigration reform, used its first commercials of the election cycle to attack Graham.

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Graham may be a lightning rod for both sides, but he’s by no means the only reason the state has become a battleground for the issue.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration panel, will play a pivotal role in creating any immigration deal in Congress.

“South Carolina is important both because Sen. Graham has been part of the group of senators who have been courageously taking this issue on ... and you also have of course Trey Gowdy,” said Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It’s up to us to convince [Gowdy] that the majority of the members of his district support comprehensive immigration reform, and we believe they do.”

Land is involved with the Evangelical Immigration Table, a group that launched radio ads on Christian radio stations across the state on Wednesday.

The group argues, in biblical terms, why Christians should support immigration reform.

Other groups have begun a campaign in the state, including Republicans for Immigration Reform, a new group formed by Carlos Gutierrez, former President George W. Bush’s Commerce secretary, and Charlie Spies, who ran Mitt Romney’s super-PAC.

They’ve hooked up with Partnership for a New American Economy, a nonpartisan business group, to run ads in the state applauding Graham for his stance.

“When you look at South Carolina, it is such a leader for the rest of the country on a lot of these issues,” said Jeremy Robbins, the director of Partnership for a New American Economy.

“It has agriculture, it has business, it has faith, it has tourism.

“South Carolina is a great platform to start, and certainly the rest of the country is looking to see what Lindsey Graham is going to do.”

The GOP could view the deeply conservative state as a test case for how far it has moved on immigration.

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