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South Carolina business leaders told to welcome immigration

Several hundred business leaders gathered at a forum in Charleston, South Carolina, today to hear an author and immigration attorney speak about the importance of immigration to our country's economy.

The event was sponsored by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for a New American Economy, a group of business leaders and mayors who see changing immigration laws as a way to create more jobs for Americans.

The speaker told the audience that immigration is a "dirty word" in the United States, but it shouldn't be. He pointed out that over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, and that immigrants are twice as likely as other Americans to start up their own businesses.

Instead of the South Carolina legislature passing laws to make it more difficult for immigrants to live and work in the state, the speaker said the government should make green cards more accessible to foreign nationals who earn advanced degrees at American universities and offer visas to entrepreneurs who are ready to set up shop.

Additionally, more temporary work visas should be supplied to American companies who depend on immigrant workers to sustain and grow their businesses, the author and immigration attorney suggested.

He said that instead, South Carolina has passed a law that "creates a hostile environment," telling the crowd that it's nearly impossible to attract immigrants and talent if "they are scared to be in the state."

The event was held as Republican presidential candidates closed in on South Carolina to campaign before next week's presidential primary, where illegal immigration is expected to be a hot-button issue.

Instead of focusing on how bad illegal immigration is, we should be focusing on how important legal immigration is, the speaker said. After all, "we are a nation of immigrants," the Charleston mayor added. 

Source: The Times and Democrat, "S.C. forum told nation should welcome immigrants," Bruce Smith, Jan. 11, 2012

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