By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Mississippi House leaders are not giving up on their effort to pass a tougher state immigration law even though those efforts were rebuffed by the Senate leadership during the 2012 session.
House Judiciary B Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, will hold an immigration hearing Aug. 23 at the Capitol where a focus will be on the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned much of Arizona’s immigration law.
Gipson said based on the hearing and court ruling “we may further refine” legislation in the 2013 session, but “the basic scope” of what was passed last year “will remain intact. Whether the result will be different will in large measure depend on the Senate’s interest in the legislation.”
This year, a coalition of farming interests, business groups, local government officials and law enforcement convinced the Senate leadership to kill the House-passed legislation.
The bill would have allowed law enforcement to check immigration status when stopping or detaining someone for another reason. It also would have allowed lawsuits to be filed against so-called sanctuary cities that have a policy of not checking for immigration status.
The Supreme Court did not strip away local law enforcement’s ability to check immigration status, but said that issue might be revisited.
In Mississippi, law enforcement and local government officials said they viewed the legislation as “an unfunded mandate” on them. Business and agriculture groups questioned the need for the legislation since existing state law requires employers to check the immigration status of potential new employees through the federal E-verify database.
During next week’s hearing, Gipson said he also wants to hear from the state attorney general’s office about whether the Supreme Court ruling might impact portions of the existing state law. That E-verify law includes state-imposed penalties on undocumented immigrants.
The court said the federal government – not the states – has the authority to impose penalties related to immigration law.
Gipson said his committee also will hear from an attorney who is an expert on the issue and those in favor of a tougher state law and those opposed will be allowed to testify. “I’ve also invited law enforcement and counties to participate and share their concerns,” he said.
Gov. Phil Bryant has long backed tougher state immigration laws. On Wednesday, Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said, “Illegal immigration is an issue that Gov. Bryant has long followed and believes must be addressed. The governor looks forward to working with our legislative leaders to find a solution that is compatible for Mississippi and is consistent with federal law.”