Mississippi law will not require local and state law enforcement to stop Latinos and inquire about their immigration status this year. An Arizona-style bill forcing law enforcement to adopt federal immigration enforcement duties died yesterday when Mississippi House of Representative members and Mississippi Senate members could not hash out their differences.
"The only point of contention I know of was the fact (House members) wanted monetary fines against employers," said Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, who authored the bill. Fillingane said states may not legally impose fines upon businesses for employing undocumented residents—a power, he said, that is invested only in the federal government.
Fillingane, who was one of the Senate conferees debating with House members on the shape of Senate Bill 2179, said he would have been happy with a bill that required the state to seize businesses' state-issued operating licenses, which he said would have been both legal and more effective at discouraging the hiring of undocumented workers. Fillingane said House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Edward Blackmon, D-Canton, insisted the monetary penalty language remain, however, because the U.S. Department of Justice or another plaintiff would challenge other aspects of the law in court, in any case.
"Even though both sides agree that penalties-per-day violate federal law, they're position was, 'So what? Let's roll with it anyhow. We know it's going to court anyway, and let's let that be an issue for the courts to decide,'" Fillingane said.
Blackmon did not immediately return calls.
Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Executive Director Bill Chandler called the death of the bill "a great victory for the people of Mississippi, particularly immigrants."
"The fact that the bill died will reduce racial profiling that seems to have escalated in some areas of the state," Chandler said. "It will help protect the anti-immigrant-racial profiling bill the city of Jackson passed last year and may dampen some of the profiling of immigrants in other places around the state."
The city of Jackson passed an ordinance last year that forbids city police from inquiring about legal residency during routine police interaction with the public, even though Chandler said Jackson police rarely harassed Latinos at traffic stops and police checkpoints.