A protest in South Carolina in January 2017. (Image via Getty)

South Carolina may not have a single sanctuary city within its borders, but that’s not stopping Republican Governor Henry McMaster from backing a harsh anti-immigrant measure to force local communities into cooperating with state and federal immigration officials, whether they want to or not.

On Monday, McMaster announced he would back an upcoming bill sponsored by Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) which would withhold some state funding from any city that adopts sanctuary status for three years. Instead, communities will have to issue sworn statements affirming their commitment to cooperating with state and federal immigration enforcement officials.

“Our cities are open to all who follow our laws, but are not sanctuaries for those who ignore them,” McMaster said in a press release. “South Carolina is a special place, known for the kindness and welcoming nature of its people, but it’s also a place that values law and order, and this bill will serve as a strong message to all that we will not tolerate lawlessness.”

Ignoring, for the moment, that studies have found no correlation between a jurisdiction’s sanctuary status and crime rate, McMaster’s endorsement of Bannister’s bill is likely nothing more than red meat for a red political base ahead of an election year. South Carolina law already mandates state and local officials determine the immigration status of anyone they’ve arrested and charged with a crime. And, with no declared sanctuary cities anywhere in the state, the proposal seems more like a performative “tough on immigration” move to preemptively punish communities (that, again, don’t exist anywhere in South Carolina!) for failing to follow state—not federal—law.

“As far as I know there has been no city to make that announcement [of being a sanctuary city]” McMaster acknowledged at a Monday press conference announcing his support for the bill. “What we are doing here is to make clear that such an announcement will not be accepted. We want the people of this state to know that law enforcement is doing its job in South Carolina.”

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A punishment for a problem that doesn’t exist. South Carolina, seems like you’re in great hands.