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Mississippi House Passes HB 56-Style Anti-Immigrant Bill

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ask me for my papersAlabama has just had two more provisions of its anti-immigrant law HB 56 blocked by a federal appeals court, but the state of Mississippi is apparently determined to make a similar mistake of its own.

Last Thursday, the Mississippi House passed an HB 56-style bill on a 70-47 vote, handing HB 488 over to the state Senate and Governor Phil Bryant (R).  Both the Senate and the Governor have expressed inclinations to support the legislation.

HB 488 is similar to its Alabama counterpart, minus several provisions: it will not require schools to collect data on the immigration status of students, will not allow police officers to inquire about immigration status during a traffic stop, will prevent public utilities companies from refusing service to undocumented immigrants, and will not make it illegal for people to be caught without their papers.  Supporters of the bill say they have designed it to withstand court challenges. 

These tweaks, however, do nothing to make the prospect of yet another anti-immigrant law from a historically intolerant Southern state more palatable.  As state Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes (D) said, “If we pass this bill, it will set Mississippi back 60 years.  Let us show America we are not the narrow-minded people they say we are.”

Jeff Ayres at the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi called the House bill “more of a political act than a practical solution to any issues it seeks to address.”

Think Progress agreed:

No matter how many tweaks legislators make, this is still a bad, discriminatory policy that unfairly targets immigrants. Taking out the absolute worst provisions does not change the fact that this bill is designed to make the lives of undocumented immigrants unbearable in Mississippi so that they’ll leave. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Becky Currie (R), has said the goal of the immigration policy is to ensure that all workers are legal, but she clearly has not learned from Alabama’s mistake.

Like Alabama, Mississippi doesn’t have much of an immigrant problem at all—only 45,000 undocumented workers are believed to be living in the state, making them 1.5% of Mississippi’s total population.  Yet like Alabama, Mississippi is somehow convinced that passing this punitive law will open up jobs for legal residents of the state.

They should really be advised to take a closer look at Alabama, where crops have been rotting in the fields due to a lack of willing homegrown labor.  An economic analysis from the University of Alabama estimated that HB 56 could end up costing Alabama as much as $11 billion in economic output and as many as 140,000 jobs.  And as a CNN blog wrote today, undocumented workers have simply migrated on to friendlier states that welcome their work, like Louisiana.