"In the Fight for Jackson's Future, Who Can Immigrant Communities Trust?" by Politics Blog | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Politics Blog

In the Fight for Jackson's Future, Who Can Immigrant Communities Trust?

The late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba didn't just inspire his voters, he also took risks for others without expecting to be repaid in return. As others remembered him, the immigrant community never got to say goodbye to the late Lumumba, who won a Freedom from Fear award in 2011 for an anti-racial profiling ordinance he wrote as a city councilman. But that doesn't mean we're not concerned about ways in which we can keep his legacy alive in our own way. The anti-racial profiling ordinance championed by Mayor Chokwe Lumumba during his time as a city councilman intended to keep the police from inquiring a person's immigration status whenever they were in contact with Jackson police.

Though this ordinance was a step in the right direction, the ordinance wasn't always implemented leading to instances of racial profiling against a local Jackson family recently, which sets a terrible precedent for how Latinos and the various immigrant communities are treated across the state of Mississippi. The time is now to take larger risks for immigrant communities, even if they aren't always able to vote due to their lack of immigration status. Undocumented and documented immigrants alike contribute to Jackson and Mississippi's economy, culture and life on a daily basis, and deserve better recognition and services from the city they call home, build businesses in, and pay taxes to.

Several mayoral candidates are currently sitting in the Jackson City Council, and others are in powerful positions in which they can have a positive impact in immigrant communities. To all Jackson mayoral candidates: you do not have to win this election in order to include us in your future vision or plans for Jackson, and the time to start including us is now. It is especially important to find ways to include those who are undocumented, and youth who are not eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) because they are basically paying taxes without any representation from anyone in the state or federal level, and the City of Jackson has the power to represent those who are not given a voice through regular electoral processes.. Here are some suggestions for what Jackson's mayoral candidates can and must do for immigrant communities whether they win these elections or not:

  1. Open city and local job opportunities to undocumented people. Jackson is having a conference on co-operatives and these are endeavors immigrant communities can be a part of. Beneficiaries of the DACA program can now legally work for the city of Jackson, and it's important to encourage them to apply for open positions in the city. Those who are undocumented are legally able to open businesses and participate in work co-operatives using a Tax ID assigned by the IRS or registering an LLC, and it is imperative that the city of Jackson keeps track of this knowledge in order to open more economic doors of opportunity to undocumented people and the city of Jackson itself.

  2. Develop and implement a local TRUST Act. The late Mayor Lumumba's anti-racial profiling ordinance prevents Jackson police from inquiring about a person's immigration status, but often the police still inquires about this and once this process starts, the anti-racial profiling ordinance has no provision blocking collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Because of this, the anti-racial profiling ordinance still streamlines undocumented mothers, fathers, and children who aren't DACA eligible into deportation proceedings and separates families. A TRUST Act would end police collaboration with ICE completely. This is especially important, since President Obama has only increased the usage of Secure Communities, a program that fingerprints anyone suspected of being undocumented. As it is several cities, including New Orleans, have written and implemented local TRUST Acts. In order to actually stop deportations of immigrants who have committed no violent crimes and increase immigrant trust in the police, Jackson must pass a TRUST Act and include undocumented communities—not just non-profits and key allies--in the writing and implementation process.

  3. Expand support for undocumented students who want to study at a college or university. Only the Mississippi State Legislature can write an in-state tuition law that would allow undocumented youth to pay the same tuition as US citizens or permanent residents. Alternatively, the Mississippi State Board of Trustees of Institutes of Higher Education can pass a resolution to pass in-state tuition at their board meetings. The future mayor can ensure the passage of a resolution in support of in-state tuition for undocumented students using either of these means, as well as encouraging HBCUs such as Tougaloo College and Jackson State University to expand opportunities for undocumented students by expanding scholarships, building programs of support, and training high school teachers and university faculty to assist Jackson's undocumented youth. Workshops for how to attend college and university until the MS Legislature passes an in-state tuition law can be added to college fairs to create safe spaces for youth to come out of the shadows and involve their families in this process.

  4. Involve people directly affected by local, state and federal immigration policies. In the past, Jackson politicians have involved non-profit organizations who advocate for immigrants rights, but this is not enough. Though the involvement of advocates and allies of undocumented immigrants is key, one cannot write and implement policies without the involvement of actual immigrants (documented or not). There is no substitute for authentic voice coming from someone who experiences the fear of deportation, immigration and the police on a daily basis. The community is the expert on immigration matters and advocates are only a supplement to these voices. There is no substitute for lived experience. No one can speak for us, we must speak for ourselves and Jackson must recognize this.

  5. Include immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East in all discussions on immigration. Often policy makers and advocates assume that only Latinos migrate to the USA because we tend to be the majority, but this silences the voices of other immigrants who feel excluded and creates harmful stereotypes that have a negative impact on city-wide policies.

  6. Create a city municipal ID card that undocumented immigrants can use. Cities such as San Francisco and New York City have done this already, and such an ID card can create support for drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. The city of Jackson could use the money, and this gesture can increase civic participation and trust.

  7. Include immigrant communities in all discussions about racial reconciliation. Unfortunately I have witnessed the exclusion of the various immigrant communities in talks about racial justice. Given Mississippi's past, it's extremely important to include immigrant groups in these discussions. Many immigrants don't come from racially diverse countries, and have no recourse or coping mechanisms for how to deal with racism once they arrive to the United States, and others come from countries where slavery and caste systems have created negative stereotypes that affect the immigrant experience in places like Jackson. Still others come from countries where multiculturalism and diversity are a cornerstone of society, and Jackson could use new experiences in its ongoing discussions about racial justice. Inclusion is not just about talking about our own problems, but also about offering immigrant and indigenous communities (who are also excluded) the opportunity to offer solutions.

  8. Train the Jackson Police Department in how to deal with undocumented immigrants or non-English speaking immigrants. As of now, the city of Jackson currently has an electronic translator only. This is preposterous. Those who pay taxes, who live in Jackson, and who work there on a daily basis deserve to have an actual person to whom they can report crimes, and who can bridge the language gap between them and the authorities if they commit a crime. The JPD and the City of Jackson should consider hiring full-time bilingual professionals in the languages most spoken in Mississippi in order to provide services. This would also help reduce the rampant racial profiling against immigrants, who are actually statistically less likely to commit crimes. Breaking immigration laws is actually a civil offence, and actually not a criminal justice issue. The JPD or any police force has no business meddling in these affairs regardless of whatever power they believe they have, and if they must be involved for some reason, the civil liberties of those who report crimes or are investigated must still be respected.

I hope those who are running for mayor consider these suggestions and remember that they can start acting on them today. I wanted to point that this election is occurring during the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964, and these are only a few things that Jackson's future mayor, and current mayoral candidates, can do in order to extend some freedom to immigrant communities in their city that really need it. The late Mayor Lumumba used to say "Free the land!" and you can't free this land without us.

This blog post represents the view of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the JFP or immigrant communities. Everyone deserves to tell their own story. Questions? Contact Ingrid at @ingridiswriting on Twitter/Instagram in English or español.

Comments

Turtleread 3 years, 6 months ago

Sure, but you always have to have a "start date," otherwise you have a build-up of the same problem if fundamental problems are not fixed. So I would be agreeable to that if say after January 1, 2015, any undocumented person who had not established residency in Jackson was routinely turned over to ICE and by 2020 all such residents had been able to establish their status and gain their documents, or they return home.

The biggest problem that I see is to correct the problem with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 14th Amendment. The historical context of that amendment was to enable blacks after the Civil War to gain both State and Federal citizenship. The Congress needs to make clear that if a child is born on US soil, he/she must have at least one parent who is an American citizen. Then, the Congress must pass a comprehensive immigration bill, and the nation should have an immigration policy that addresses the needs of farmers, businesses, and hiring individuals within the country and what people we want and need.

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ingridcruz 3 years, 6 months ago

I think you have nice intentions by wanting to fix the root of the problem but any and every social justice movement knows you need short, medium and long-term plans. Your plan is only long-term, which means that more deportations and racial profiling in JXN could occur. Also, you need to talk to people who are undocumented right now and get their perspective on your idea. To me, I wouldn't support it without having a short-medium term plan. Also, Congress has 0 interest in immigration reform, ALEC is too busy buying them. My suggestion is if you want to have to good intentions, have them by being an ally to locals who ARE currently suffering and can tell you what their own plans are.

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Turtleread 3 years, 6 months ago

The trouble is that the country actually had a process, but bungled it. They had amnesty but without a permanent fix or fixes, the problem just happened again. And the only ones who benefited were employers who want cheap labor. So I think we need to do the long-term fix or fixes, then work back to medium or short-term. Otherwise, nothing will get done and my attitude is that jumping a fence doesn't confer any rights or considerations.

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