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Mississippi Religious Leaders Urge Opposition To Immigration Bill

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 01 Mar 2011 07:31am | comments
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. Courtesy the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church.

A group of Mississippi Christian leaders is asking the legislature not to approve and Arizona-style immigration law. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that Mississippi law makers could see an updated bill as soon as this week.

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who leads the state's conferences United Methodist Churches, is one of 5 religious leaders who signed the letter to the Governor and legislature laying out a Christian based argument opposing a bill tightening Mississippi's immigration law.

Bishop Ward says accepting immigrants regardless of their legal status is part of biblical scripture.

"At the center of Christian faithfulness, the scripture, is a call to love and welcome the sojourner. Jesus Christ himself was a refugee when his family had to escape Herod. This is not a simplistic observation but an historical fact,"

Senator Joey Fillingane of Sumrall has been a lead advocate and author of the proposed law.

Fillingane says the preachers and bishops are selectively reading the bible to push for totally open borders.

"That is not realistic. We have people that are coming here trying to kill us. Trying to be terrorists and take down our buildings and kill our citizens. You can't justify, in my opinion, that one scripture to mean that the state ought to not have any borders that can be enforced," Fillingane said.

Another hurdle for the bill is disagreement between the house and senate versions over issuing fines against businesses that hire illegal immigrants, which Fillingane says is a violation of federal law.

Last week on MPB's legislative program Quorum, House Judiciary A chairman Ed Blackmon says placing fines on businesses is constitutional and that it is the only way to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into the state.

"Our bill seeks to stop that. We will penalize the people who are hiring illegal immigrants. They are fined on a daily basis. And that is the way you enforce it. You hurt them in the pocket book. If there are no jobs, there are no immigrants. Problem solved," Blackmon said.

The two houses are still in conference working out the details of the immigration bill, but Fillingane says he will produce a conference report on the proposed bill by next week even if they can't reach a compromise bill. 

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Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. Courtesy the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church.


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