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Immigration Reform Possible in Mississippi’s Near Future

By Daniel Cherry | Published 10 Nov 2011 09:10pm | comments

Immigration reform is one of the most hotly contested debates across the nation and Mississippi has joined in the fight. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how immigrant rights advocates are speaking out as reform looms in the state.

At the Mississippi College School of Law, Senator Joey Fillingane, an immigration reform advocate, and Bill Chandler, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance squared off in a debate. It appears Republicans gained control of the state legislature and Fillingane says it's possible Mississippi could pass immigration reform similar to the Alabama law.

"Hopefully the ultimate goal is to encourage the federal government to do something that's more comprehensive in nature. We don't really like the patchwork of state laws so that it's different in Alabama than in Missouri, but until the federal government takes action, that's really the best we can do at this point."

Immigrants rights advocates are carefully watching the shift in the legislature. Ingrid Cruz, of El Salvador, spoke out during the debate saying she recently became a legal U.S. citizen, but she's concerned about possible discrimination like she's heard about in other states with strong laws.

"It is a little scary to me because when I was a kid there was a point in time when I was undocumented and that fear had to be real. I thought that when I became a U.S. citizen it would just be over, but it isn't. After I hear about these lawsuits and citizens being detained, that really scares me."

An immigration reform bill failed in the legislature last session. Immigrant advocates like Bill Chandler say if a bill is passed, families are going to suffer.

"Most of the Latino families here are what we call mixed families. Some are citizens, some have residency, some are undocumented. So if you have a law like that it's going to be hell to pay."

A federal judge recently upheld almost all key provisions of Alabama's immigration law, the toughest in the nation.




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