By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The Mississippi House will vote within the next two weeks on a tough immigration bill patterned after the law passed last year by the Alabama Legislature.
On Friday, the House Education Committee passed the proposal and sent it to the floor of the House. It was passed earlier by the House Judiciary B Committee.
The proposal was before the Education Committee because of a provision that requires local school districts to verify whether their students are legal residents of the country.
The school districts would report their findings to the state Board of Education, which would file a report each year on the number of illegal immigrants being educated by the state.
Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill to take out that provision.
Barker said he supported much of the bill, but was worried about “unintended consequences” and “unfunded mandates for school districts.”
He said many of the children were American citizens because they were born in the country. Yet, when the law was put in place in Alabama, “a lot of parents kept their children at home.”
Rep. Kevin McGee, R-Brandon, said the names of the children would be kept confidential and it would be a crime for them to be revealed.
Federal law requires all children to be educated.
The bill says a law enforcement officer, when stopping a person for a possible violation, such as speeding or jay-walking, should check for immigration if “a reasonable suspicion exists.”
Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
Gov. Phil Bryant has been a strong proponent of legislation requiring local and state law enforcement to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The bill would allow lawsuits to be filed against so-called sanctuary cities that have a policy of not checking for immigration status.