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Immigration Reform Debate Heats Up in Mississippi

By Daniel Cherry | Published 16 Nov 2011 07:52pm | comments

Mississippians on both sides of the immigration debate are gearing up for a battle in the upcoming legislative session. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how advocacy groups are preparing to oppose immigration reform in the next year.

Mississippi is very likely to be the next state joining in the fight over immigration reform. In Jackson, representatives from groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU came together at a Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance meeting to discuss their options moving forward. Amelia McGowan is an attorney with the ACLU. She says they can see the writing on the wall.

"We've already heard talk of issues coming up with legislation similar to Arizona's and Alabama's. That's why we're here. To discuss these issues and discuss strategies because I think in numbers if we put our collective heads together, we'll be a much stronger force."

A strong immigration reform bill failed in the state legislature last session, but now Republicans control both houses for the first time in more than a century. In a recent interview, reform advocate Senator Joey Fillingane said he expects the issue to come up again in the new session, and he hopes for a more favorable outcome.

"The Federal Government is not stepping up the plate, in my opinion, and doing what they should to protect our borders. It hurts Mississippians and it hurts tax payers. If you're having to pay for people who aren't here legally, it certainly hurts those of us who are here legally and are trying to abide by the law."

Alabama has the toughest immigration law in the nation, and a federal judge recently upheld almost all of its key provisions. Father Jeremy Tobin is a priest in Raymond. He says he's seen the effects.

"Every week we have new faces in the church, and they all come fleeing this Alabama law. Because they feel they have no rights. They could get picked up and hauled off for running a stop light. So there's great fear among the community about that Alabama law."

The legislature will convene in early January, and immigration reform is likely to be one of the key issues on the legislative calendar.

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