Undocumented Workers, Felons and Fines | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Undocumented Workers, Felons and Fines

Illegal immigrants and employers of illegal immigrants beware. The House passed Senate Bill 2988 by a wide margin today. The bill, called the Mississippi Employee Protection Act, forces all employers in the state to check employees' resident status with the E-verification System, available online at the Department of Homeland Security's Web site. It also makes any undocumented worker and anyone employing an undocumented worker a felon, with a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The House, which had proven largely indifferent to immigration issues in the past, passed the bill with a 111-to-8 vote.

Rep. Brandon Jones, D-Pascagoula, argued that the bill was aimed at regulating both employee and employer, though Rep. Willie Perkins, D-Greenwood, countered that the bill's language forces court personnel to consider violators of this particular law a flight risk—a move Perkins said was clearly aimed at immigrants.

"We know who this bill targets," Perkins said. "Are you trying to tell me that some employer who is established is a flight risk?"

Perkins was one of the eight representatives who opposed the bill in the final vote.

"What keeps (employers) from discriminating against someone of a certain ethnic background?" Perkins asked. "Some employers might say, ‘Rather than fooling with (the possibility of) hiring an illegal, I'll just not hire an immigrant at all."

"[H]owever the employer chooses to respond to (the new law) is up to that employer," Jones answered. "We have discrimination laws in this country that deal with the type of behavior you're describing."

Rep. Tommy Woods, R-Byhalia, questioned how an employer out in the field would check his employees' records online if he had no access to the Internet.

"I would suggest they attend a public library and check out their employees," Jones answered.

"I'm sure they'll have time to do that," Woods said, laughing derisively.

Rep. Billy Broomfield, D-Moss Point, said he supported the bill because of wide public support for the law.

"This is an issue that is topmost among our constituents' concerns," Broomfield said. "We're not opposed to legal immigration, just illegal immigrants."

Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who also voted in support of the bill, said the heat was on legislators to approve some form of immigration law.

"Apparently they care more about immigration this year than they do Medicaid," Holland said, referring to the apparent back seat the short-funded program has taken behind immigration this past year.

Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Spokesperson Erik Fleming agreed that legislators were pressured into supporting the bill.

"They knew the Senate was sending them all these bills and the House felt it had to vote on something," Fleming said. "They felt they were catching a whole lot of flack for not dealing with the issue."

Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, said on his blog that he feared the bill would fill state jails with illegal immigrants at considerable cost to the state. Mayo said it would be cheaper to buy the immigrants "a first–class plane ticket back to their country."

Gov. Haley Barbour has said immigration is an issue that should be handled on the national level, though Barbour's Press Secretary Pete Smith said the governor could be predisposed to welcome this bill.

"It's entirely likely that the governor will sign the bill, but he needs to take the time to thoroughly review the bill before doing that," Smith told the Jackson Free Press.

Previous Comments

ID
99049
Comment

This bill is horrible! If you want to see the economy come to a stand still just keep pushing immigrants - illegal or otherwise - out of work! I know many hate him, but Bush was dead on when he wanted to grant amnesty a couple of years back!

Author
pikersam
Date
2008-03-05T18:14:48-06:00
ID
99050
Comment

Yep, this is moronic. People like Holland should be ashamed. It's like 1964 all over again.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-03-05T23:43:54-06:00
ID
99051
Comment

How is stopping companies from hiring undocumented workers horrible?

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-03-06T00:05:02-06:00
ID
99052
Comment

Bubba, why don't you put on your thinking cap, get past the meme and consider what the negatives could possibly be of this bill, and then get back to us. This is one I think you can reason out for yourself if you're motivated beyond sound bites. You have the information. We've provided a lot of it, in fact.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-03-06T07:44:51-06:00
ID
99053
Comment

And, remember we're talking specifically about this bill -- not some vague notion about the problem with businesses hiring undocumented workers. So be sure to focus on what could be "horrible" about this bill.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2008-03-06T07:45:39-06:00
ID
99054
Comment

An undocumented worker faces felony charges. Now you arrest them, throw them in jail - THEN WHAT - 3 meals a day and a cot. Oh boy, you're really doing something now - you've got county jails filled with undocumented workers. ... think it through, all the way through....

Author
lanier77
Date
2008-03-06T08:53:27-06:00
ID
99055
Comment

Oh boy, you're really doing something now - you've got county jails filled with undocumented workers. ... think it through, all the way through.... I thought about that very scenario this morning. As if we don't have enough problems with jail overcrowding, now we are adding a bunch of illegals to the jail system and things will only get worse.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2008-03-06T09:18:30-06:00
ID
99056
Comment

Donna, got my red Ole Miss cap on now... :) I agree with you that this bill could and will most likely cause businesses to discriminate against Latin people. That is very wrong. Most peoples fears of illegal immigrants are base on BS provided by the media and our oh so bright gov't officials. Are they a drain on the welfare and health system?, not hardly, they don't want anything to do with any gov't offices or people. I have seen a crew of 25 legal workers disappear in to thin air when an INS van pulls up, so I doubt illegal ones are going to march down to the Welfare office. They surely aren't taking jobs away from Mississippians, they are doing jobs you can't get people here to do. Been there, done that. I would rather work a crew of immigrant workers than a crew of home grown workers. They are early to work, never miss a day, don't show up drunk the day after payday and work harder than you can. They are here to work not just to show at a job and get a check. How many undocumented workers are there in Mississippi? Who knows,you can't get a good number, somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 if you go by the numbers you see. So yes some business are hiring undocumented workers, is that the workers fault,no. The business are taking advantage of them, hire an illegal worker and you have no workers comp,no SS taxes to pay, and can pay them less than documented and native workers. That's a crime even before this bill and that's what has to stop.

Author
BubbaT
Date
2008-03-06T09:49:54-06:00

Like independent media outlets around the world, the Jackson Free Press works hard to produce important content on a limited budget. We'd love your help! Become a JFP VIP member today and/or donate to our journalism fund. Thanks for considering a JFP VIP membership or one-time support.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus