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Viewpoint: South Carolina can lead in equal access

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Opportunity is knocking at the door of our beautiful South Carolina, and we must answer the call of boundless talent ready to build a path toward a prosperous future for all South Carolinians. 

As one of more than 225,000 immigrants who call the Palmetto State home, I know the desire and drive to give back to this beautiful state that has embraced us, and I hope our state will accept the vast gifts we have to offer.

Adela MendozaAs a proud citizen of an ever-changing America, I recognize that, in the exercise of building a just society that seeks to include all voices, we have not always achieved the right balance. While planning a better future for our children, we have forgotten our immigrant youth, especially when it comes to higher learning. In the name of immigration reform, South Carolina’s Legislature has passed some of the most exclusionary laws in the country which prohibit exceptional young people from receiving in-state tuition or participating in state-funded scholarship programs.

By excluding these hardworking individuals, we are limiting our potential to realize economic opportunities that would benefit everyone in our state. South Carolina’s future economic success depends on having access to a more educated, dynamic workforce, and our state needs skilled immigrant workers now more than ever.

According to a new economic impact study released by the New American Economy, a diverse bipartisan organization focused on immigration reforms that will help create jobs and economic opportunities, our state’s immigrant community makes significant contributions to our local economies.

Statewide, immigrants living in South Carolina pay nearly $1.3 billion in annual taxes and boast nearly $4.1 billion in spending power. Immigrants make up 9% of entrepreneurs across our state, and these 16,000 foreign-born business owners have created more than 47,000 jobs for South Carolinians.

In my role as the executive director of the Hispanic Alliance of South Carolina, I have the privilege of working with Dreamers. In them, I see the best of our history and the promise of our future. I see an amazing pool of talent that’s willing to be trained and hungry to give back.

I urge our state lawmakers to take a courageous step toward building the workforce we need by opening doors to education and giving equal access to the resources that every young person in South Carolina needs to move our state forward.

Just imagine the new possibilities and economic gains that could be achieved if we opened up these state-sponsored opportunities to everyone living in our state.

While Congress continues to delay repairing our nation’s broken immigration system, this is something South Carolina can do independently that will keep America great.

Adela Mendoza is the executive director of the Hispanic Alliance of South Carolina.

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