HB 488, The Immigration Bill

Opponents make the case that, under the legislation, schools will be in a position to ask students about the student and his or her family’s immigration status. The law will also transform police departments into immigration task forces. A concern is that police departments will single out communities with high Latino populations and could intimidate families and individuals living in those areas. Ultimately, all immigrants, document and undocumented, will flee communities where they feel threatened. This could lead them to other parts of the state or out of the state completely. The business community fears that, should the legislation force immigrants to leave Mississippi, industries all over the state will be affected, ultimately stifling economic growth. From construction, to food service, to janitorial services, to agriculture, there are few industries that would go untouched by the absence of the contributions of immigrant workers. Companies prefer to hire local workers first and foremost; however, when that option is not available, companies will seek the help of migrant workers to fill gaps in production lines. A reduction of tax revenue from immigrants paying sales taxes, for example, will affect rural communities the hardest. Since the passage of Arizona’s immigration law, estimates are that $500 million in tourism revenue has been lost due to boycotts. Clergy members were opposed to what they referred to as “unjust legislation.” They fear that the state of Mississippi is setting itself up to repeat errors of its troubled past by singling out and intimidating a minority group.

We need to move beyond immigration being an “emotional issue” and remember that these are human beings with families and strong ties into our communities. The law will do more harm than good. Our police forces will no longer be keepers of peace, as their presence will strike fear into the hearts of families and communities that would be impacted should the legislation become law. Furthermore, our courts and prison industry will be overrun with cases related to violations of the immigration law. A person unknowingly driving an illegal immigrant to church could be arrested for violating the law. The state of Alabama is also feeling the impact of its own version of immigration reform and is taking steps to “revisit” areas of the bill. Agriculture industries have suffered great financial losses as migrant workers flee the state in search of opportunities to provide for their families in less hostile environments. It would be ill-advised for the state of Mississippi to fall for a similar mistake. The economic impact, the expense of litigating the law, and perception of being hostile to outsiders is being felt. Mississippi largely depends on outside investment in order to have successful industries in the state. To tarnish our state’s image after decades of trying to rebrand ourselves would be very unwise. The solution is two fold: First, work with the federal government to correct the problem. Immigration is a federal issue, and it rests with the federal government to step up to the plate. Second, allow the strong and effective e-verify system that Mississippi has in place to continue its operation.