Business

Sen. Graham helps import Jamaicans for work at elite country club

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The 2012 PGA golf championship showcased the green links, yellow sands and blue skies at the beachside Kiawah country club in South Carolina.

But it also exposed the political maneuvering that annually brings about 170 low-wage black workers from Jamaica into South Carolina for temporary jobs that could otherwise have gone to local South Carolina workers.

Those low-wage workers helped the club’s financial returns, and indirectly, also helped South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has long pushed for an immigration rewrite that would import more low-wage foreign workers.

In February, Graham told a Rotary Club lunch in Easley, S.C., that he helped get H-2B guest-worker visas for the country club’s 2012 season.

“Graham said the Kiawah Golf Club advertised for 600-700 service positions in advance of hosting the PGA,” said a report by the South Carolina website Easley.Patch.com.

“They got 9 [American] applicants for these jobs,” Graham said. “Three of them failed the drug test. They ran out of visas … I had to go to beg the Department of Labor to give them a waiver so they could get people from Jamaica to come in here and service the PGA.”

In exchange for easing the import of foreign workers Graham received greater support from the business community, including political donations from Kiawah’s manager and owner.

Graham’s support for guest workers also earned him a warm welcome at the Kiawah club, where he’s expected to hold a fundraiser in October.

“I play here four, five times a year,” Graham said in a Sirius radio interview at Kiawah on Aug. 9, during the 2012 PGA championship. “If my last round of golf wasn’t at the masters, it would be at [Kiawah’s] ocean course,” he said.

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“This is the only thing that gets me away from my job… I love to play, It is the best game in the world [and] the best time I ever had with my father was playing golf,” Graham added.