Dividing lines begin to show as immigration debate begins - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Dividing lines begin to show as immigration debate begins

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Immigration reform is again center of national debate as the US Senate voted Tuesday to begin talks on the hotly contested topic.

Lawmakers on both sides are calling for change, but a major sticking point is border security.

Here in South Carolina, many say it's time to change the law. The Palmetto State's two senators were split whether to move forward on the bill.

Senior Sen. Lindsey Graham voted in favor of beginning debate. After all, Graham was one of the "Gang of Eight" that helped to craft the legislation.

Meanwhile, junior Sen. Tim Scott voted against moving forward on the bill.

Passage of any kind of immigration reform is going to impact everyone, particularly business owners.

In South Carolina, some of the biggest industries like agriculture and tourism depend on workers who are often undocumented.

For Arif Rizvi, owner of Columbia's Rue 77 restaurant on the corner of Assembly and Lady Street, it's all about work ethic. It doesn't matter who you are.

"If there's due diligence and there's a process for you to get eligible for a green card and then on your way to get citizenship -- absolutely," said Rizvi. "That's the beauty of America."

Rizvi came to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1990. He says it took him 20 years to get citizenship. He believes in the process.

"I did not swim across the ocean or climb a fence to get to the U.S. I had to go through the right process to be here," said Rizvi.

The immigration reform bill calls for a 13 year path to citizenship and increased border patrols, but lawmakers can't agree on specific elements of border security and priorities of reform.

"The bill as drafted is legalization first, border secure later, and tracking visa overstays later if at all," said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

"Too many members on both sides of the aisle do not believe it goes far enough on border security," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a leader in drafting the legislation. "They do not trust that the Department of Homeland Security will secure the border and prevent another wave of illegal immigration. So it's very simple. If people want immigration reform we're going to have to improve the border security elements of the bill and we're going to have to make people confident that what we're doing is enough."

Those we spoke with say some level of immigration reform is needed.

Rizvi says most industries have no choice but to have a diverse workforce in order to compete on a global scale.

"It's a global economy," said Rizvi. "There are different skill sets that are required and not necessarily available right here right now but we have to reach out globally."

President Obama and Lindsey Graham have been advocates of immigration reform, saying it is not widespread amnesty. It's background checks, they have to learn English, they have to pay taxes and maybe even a penalty.

The bill will be debated in the Senate, and the House of Representatives is also working on its own version.

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