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Immigration Bill Passes Mississippi Senate

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Jan 2011 06:50am | comments
Senator Fillingane, Sumrall, argues in support of the immigration bill.

A bill modeled after Arizona's controversial immigration law is headed to the Mississippi House. The Senate passed the bill after several hours of debate Tuesday. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the bill would let police officers check a person's immigration status only after they have stopped them for some other reason.

The bill closely resembles the Arizona law but there is a key difference...officers would have to make some other lawful stop before they can question a person's immigration status.

The Bill's author Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall says that alleviates concerns that the bill will lead to racial profiling.

"I think that addresses some of the problems that some of the previous Senators have asked about, the profiling issues. We don't want our law enforcement officials out there profiling and abusing this law," Fillengane said.

Profiling and race are among the top reasons that critics of the law, like Soletai Arellano with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, oppose the bill. Arrellano argues that the profiling will happen anyway.

"As I am sitting here listening, someone that represents the Tea Party; because I was sitting there and I guess she saw the color I was, she asked me if I was illegal. So there is an example of just profiles on people because of their color," Arellano said.

There were a number of tea party supporters in the gallery who occasionally cheered when attempts to weaken or change the law failed.

Tea Party spokeswoman Laura VanOverschelde says their support for the law is not about race, it is about economics.

"I know how incredibly embarrassing to our state budgets, to our health budgets, to our hospital budgets that illegal immigration is. I have been a nurse 42 years and I tell you I have been watching it all my life," VanOverschelde said.

A 2006 report from the state auditor claimed that illegal immigrants cost the state 25-million dollars a year, a number that opponents of the bill call into question....It is not clear how much it would cost to implement this bill if it becomes law.

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Senator Fillingane, Sumrall, argues in support of the immigration bill.


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