Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Anti-immigrant Bill Dies in Mississippi


Chris Bober • Mar 04, 2010

So what’s got me smiling today? Could it be the “surprised kitten” YouTube clip floating around the office? No, as sweet as that is, I’m most excited about Tuesday’s civil rights victory in Mississippi which saw the state’s legislature kill the so-called “Immigration Reform Act of 2010” (SB2032).

The bill, which initially passed the senate, died in a house committee despite being promoted by the anti-immigrant group, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and a last minute endorsement by the white supremacist hate group, Council of Conservative Citizens.

This alarming and fiercely anti-immigrant bill (co-authored by Senators: Michael Watson, Chris McDaniel, and Lee Yancey) called for severe penalties for undocumented immigrants caught with false identification. It also included 287(g) provisions for local and state law enforcement and language which would have created a “new crime” to “transport” or “harbor” undocumented immigrants in the state of Mississippi.

Of course, the transporting part got my attention too. Especially, because according to the bill, one can “conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection” an immigrant in “any building or means of transportation.” This, unfortunately, would have opened the door to a whole new dimension of racial profiling and meant offenders would see over $1,000 in fines and at least a year in prison.

The Council of Conservative Citizens, the reconstituted old White Citizen’s Council, which has referred to blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity” and opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind” promoted SB2032 on their website this week writing, “Please call your representatives and urge them to keep this bill alive, pass it, and continue to drive illegal immigrates (sic) out of our state.”

In order to “drive immigrates (sic) out of (their) state” those writing the bill (see above) would have had to include penalties which were sufficiently scary and extreme. Indeed, had it passed, SB2032 would have drastically changed existing state laws by charging undocumented immigrants (21+), found in possession of false identification, with a felony. This felony charge would include a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. To put this into perspective, the existing laws in Mississippi state that a U.S. citizen convicted of manufacturing false identification (i.e., those people in the business of making fake ID’s) can only face a $5000 fine and/or up to 3 years in prison.

Furthermore, the 287(g) provisions in the bill would have given greater power to state and local law officials to enforce immigration laws – which has led to abuses of power in the past - most notably, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s extreme actions in Maricopa County, Arizona.

However disturbing, it is not surprising that language found in the bill is similar to model legislation promoted by the Immigration Reform Law Institute. IRLI is the legal arm of the John Tanton Network and primarily pushes legal causes which unfairly target immigrant communities. On their website, IRLI offers model legislation for policymakers interested in “planning state and local enforcement of immigration law.”

In one such model – Model Ordinance I – it states that it is not lawful for a business or person to provide safe haven for an immigrant “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of the law.”

SB2032 states similarly that it would be against the law for anyone in Mississippi to “shelter from detection” any undocumented immigrant whether “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.”

It is not clear whether the Immigration Reform Law Institute played a part in the development of this legislation; however, it is frightening that legislation like SB2032 fits so nicely within the ideology of groups like IRLI and CofCC.

With despicable and discriminatory legislation such as SB2032 (so willingly pushed by those in state legislatures), I worry that an anti-immigrant and white nationalist vision of America may move forward right under our noses. It’s enough to wipe the smile right off my face.

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