Greg Torrales first moved to South Carolina in 2007 to work as a translator and help immigrants navigate the healthcare industry. Today he is the director of the South Carolina Hispanic Leadership Council (SCHLC), which provides social services for the state’s Hispanic residents.
“Before I moved to South Carolina, I described myself as an advocate,” Torrales says. “Now, I’m a civil rights activist.”
The SCHLC supports immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, an end to the visa backlog, and in-state tuition for immigrants who are state residents. Ensuring opportunity for South Carolina’s immigrants makes economic sense. Overall, the state’s 225,000 immigrants wielded more than $4 billion in spending power and paid nearly $380 million in state and local taxes in 2014 alone. “So many are already paying into the system,” Torrales points out. Reforms including legal status would only help more immigrants pay and contribute more.
Passing the immigration reform bill would be beneficial not just to immigrants but to our economy as a whole.
Ignoring the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants will not work, Torrales adds, and deporting them would be a logistical and economic nightmare. The best solution, in Torrales’s view, is the legislation a bipartisan group of senators (including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham) helped craft and pass in 2013. That bill included a path to citizenship, as well as background checks, payment of any outstanding taxes, and improved work visa options.
“Passing the immigration reform bill would be beneficial not just to immigrants but to our economy as a whole,” Torrales says.