By: Daniel Nardini
There is a piece of legislation called House Bill 488 going through the state legislature in Mississippi that will “penalize” the undocumented in the state. There is the usual claim that the undocumented are “stealing American jobs” and “draining our tax revenue.” The law would give the state and local police the power to check on the immigration status of anyone they “thought” is an immigrant. However, the bill will not do much more. Why? Because all of the other provisions that would be in the Mississippi bill are being taken out because the Mississippi state government does not want to find itself fighting in a federal court over provisions that have landed the states Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia in the same legal trouble. One has to ask what is the point of passing a state immigration law that stands a good chance of being gutted in the first place?
Without question Mississippi the Republican legislators want to pass a state immigration law like what has happened in neighboring Alabama. But they rightfully fear for the legal, social and political repercussions that can cost their state millions of dollars. What this all means is that Mississippi has become another legal battleground in the fight on the issue of immigration and essentially who decides it. Does the state decide who is within its borders, or does immigration—regardless of what an immigrant’s status is—remain in the realm of federal law? The chances are House Bill 488 will not pass, or a very hollow version of it will pass. But the Mississippi Republicans are watching in anxiety what is happening across the country as the battle lines over the issue of immigration is being hotly debated as are jobs, the economy and poverty, religion, and who will be the ultimate frontrunner Republican presidential candidate to defeat U.S. President Barack Obama.
In fact, the Republicans are now concerned that they will lose the Latino vote because the two of the three most likely Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have come across as anti-Latino. Is it possible that the Mississippi Republicans may be holding off on creating a state immigration law until after the presidential election? Maybe. But I believe that the reason so close to the Mississippi Republicans is simply legal. I am more convinced that the Republican legislators in Mississippi are trying to create an immigration law that will not be so easily challenged in federal court. That may be a hard thing to do since any type of law, no matter how much it may follow federal immigration law, will most likely be challenged anyway because it has been made a state law and the federal government will not accept anything that is by the U.S. Constitution assigned to be in its jurisdiction. For now, Mississippi has become a battleline for pro-immigration and anti-immigration forces. You can be sure it will not be the last battleline.