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Proposed Immigration Law Puts Mississippi On National Radar

By Rhonda Miller | Published 15 Feb 2012 08:56pm | comments
Mary Townsend is director of El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services, a program of Seashore Mission, in Biloxi.

Legislation similar to Alabama’s controversial immigration law was introduced in the Mississippi Legislature this week.  MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the bill has already put Mississippi on the national radar.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Legal Director Mary Bauer said in a telephone press conference Wednesday that anti-immigrant laws in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, similar to the one proposed in Mississippi, are having a devastating impact.

"They have created a state of fear and crisis in Latino communities, leaving crops rotting in the fields, decimating local economies and taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the state coffers. We hope Mississippi legislators will look at the distress these laws have caused in other states, especially our state just next door, before going any further with the legislation proposed earlier this week."

But Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, said the Alabama law is doing what was intended - causing Illegal aliens to leave the state.

"And when Alabama decided to enforce immigration laws, the illegal aliens responded rationally. They will do the same thing in Mississippi. If Mississippi enacts laws that make it clear, we are not going to tolerate illegal aliens living here, consuming state resources, taking jobs away from Americans, they will respond rationally and leave. Those jobs will be filled, in most cases, by Americans, or legally documented workers, who are in the country."

At El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services in Biloxi, director Mary Townsend says the changes should be in federal laws, so people who are needed for the workforce can come in legally.

"Everybody that I have ever met who came here unlawfully, or who got here lawfully and fell out of status in some way, and stayed here, in every single case, every person that I know, it has been out of pure desperation of the necessity to care for and support their own families and try to survive."

The proposed Mississippi legislation, House Bill 488, has been referred to the judiciary and education committees for review.

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Mary Townsend is director of El Pueblo Immigration Legal Services, a program of Seashore Mission, in Biloxi.


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