All the talk about stepping up immigration reform in Mississippi could soon become a reality.

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Immigration Reform Coming to Mississippi Soon?

By Daniel Cherry | Published 15 Mar 2012 11:18pm | comments

Mississippi is one step closer to having tougher immigration enforcement, and the issue has all sides divided. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how supporters say one of their goals is to lower unemployment, but opponents say the state is inviting trouble.

All Mississippi needs before increasing enforcement against illegal immigration is a majority in the Senate and the Governor's signature. For supporters, it looks good. Immigration bills have passed the more-Republican Senate in recent years and Governor Phil Bryant campaigned on the issue. As far as the claims the new law would lead to profiling by law enforcement, Bryant, a former sheriff's deputy himself, doesn't buy it.

"Look, I trust law enforcement. I believe in them. They took a solemn oath to serve and protect the citizens of Mississippi. I can't imagine that we've got law enforcement officers out there that for some reason would go about profiling on this law."

A version of the bill passed the Mississippi house around 12:30 Thursday morning. Supporters of the proposed law like Rodney Hunt, President of the Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, say it's about being fair to Mississippi citizens.

"We have the 5th highest unemployment rate of any state in the nation. We have 133,000 people who have looked for a job in the past two months who do not have a job. So we have a lot of people who could benefit from jobs opening up to citizens."

House Republicans say the bill is crafted to avoid lawsuit. But those on the other side, like House Minority Leader Bobby Moak, point to the challenges in Arizona and Alabama.

"How much money is this going to cost us here in Mississippi if we pass a law? We're simply, more than likely, buying a lawsuit. You may have a law on the books but you're going to be in court and you're going to get to spend a whole bunch of taxpayer dollars on some $240/hr lawyers."

A report by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates in 2010 undocumented immigrants made up nearly 3 percent of Mississippi's workforce.

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