It is widely reported that Pickens County Council is working to pass an ordinance that makes English the official language for county business and requires all vendors doing business with the county to make sure those who work for them are legal workers.
Some pundits are crying foul over the measure, and arguing that it is bigoted against immigrants. Those pundits are not really thinking the issue through.
The United States, and yes, even South Carolina, is made of people from diverse backgrounds. While those diverse backgrounds have their value, it is important that we use our government system to agree on how to officially communicate with one another. The elected officials of Pickens seem to be moving to saying that English will be that official way to communicate with one another. Frankly, perhaps the federal government should follow suit.
For those who think that stand is bigoted, think on this. When different groups of people live in the same area and can not adequately communicate, misunderstandings lead to missed opportunities and even violence. By stating that day to day business be conducted in English, it removes that communications barrier. Everyone knows what mode in which to communicate. Spanish speaking nation-states throughout Central and South America use that standard. They expect day to day business to be conducted in Spanish. Are those nation-states and their governments and people racist or bigoted?
Further, in a capitalist system, economic competition is key to bringing about the best living situation for all involved. However, if someone breaks the agreed upon rules of that competition by hiring illegal workers, the competition becomes unfair and results become skewed. Those results become detrimental not only the competitors who competed by the rules, but to the illegal workers. Illegal workers can be intimidated, paid less than minimum wage, and subjected to poor health and safety standards. As those illegal workers live in fear of having no real redress of their grievances; they live little better than slaves to those who hire them.
That is why I support the Pickens County initiative in part, but think that it, like the current state law, does not go far enough. There needs to be real stiff criminal penalties for businesses and business managers who knowingly hire illegal workers. After all, if we can make environmental misgivings criminal for businesses with federal legislation such as CERCLA, why can't we do the same to protect human beings?