Mississippi Avoids Alabama's Mistakes on Immigration

Legislators in Mississippi refused to bring up HB 488 for a committee vote last Tuesday — effectively killing the anti-immigrant measure modeled off of Arizona and Alabama’s controversial and economically devastating laws.

In an unprecedented public rebuke of the anti-immigrant “self-deportation” scheme pushed by hard-right conservative groups, the state’s biggest agricultural and law enforcement associations sent letters to every member of Mississippi’s State Legislature, beating back a bill that had the full-throated support of Governor Phil Bryant.

Their letters cap off a legislative session in which increasing attention is being paid to the unfolding economic and humanitarian crisis in neighboring Alabama which has seen its crops rot in the field for lack of workers, its economy and tax base shrink rapidly, and its reputation tarnished — all while there is massive confusion amongst local law enforcement and businesses about how to comply with the law and damning constitutional challenges to its provisions.

While advocates for a sane, practical, and inclusive immigration policy should celebrate this development, there is still a distinct chance that anti-immigrant legislators will try to roll provisions from HB 488 into other bills. These provisions, including one which bars immigrants from starting businesses and another which enshrines racial profiling into Mississippi’s State Constitution, would do increasing damage to a state that clearly has bigger fish to fry: Mississippi boasts a $634 million structural deficit while hosting one of the smallest immigrant populations in the country.

In the overwhelming majority of statehouses thus far in 2012 legislative sessions, the surreal rhetoric that fuels anti-immigrant politics has been been met with a sobering dose of economic realism and growing momentum behind common-sense immigration policies that focus less on distractive scapegoating and more on practical solutions that build livable communities and a sustainable economy. 


This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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