By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – As opposition continues to grow to legislation designed to combat illegal immigration, a committee chairman has taken steps to ensure the bill doesn’t die.
House Judiciary B Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, on Thursday amended legislation in his committee aimed at deterring the sale of counterfeit goods to include anti-illegal immigration language. The House already passed a bill with the same language but some believe it’s in jeopardy in the Senate.
Gipson said he believed adding the language to deter illegal immigrants was relevant to the original intent of the bill since the attorney general’s office had cited problems in immigrant neighborhoods as one of the reasons the counterfeit goods bill is needed. The state Constitution prohibits amendments from changing the original intent of a bill.
Also on Thursday, Gipson amended another bill to include other controversial language passed by the House. The “fetal heartbeat bill,” which could require women to undergo an invasive transvaginal ultrasound, was added to a bill that would increase the penalties for a child homicide.
Gipson said on both bills the language he added “seemed germane to me.” It is expected when the bills are considered on the House floor a point of order will be raised that the amendments changed the intent of the legislation.
Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, would rule on any point of order. Gipson said he already has legal staff researching the potential points of order.
Gipson took his action as various groups have voiced opposition in recent days to the bill dealing with illegal immigration. On Thursday, a wide range of clergy expressed opposition. Previous opposition came from the Mississippi Economic Council, the Farm Bureau, various other agriculture-related groups, city and county government groups, the Sheriffs Association and the Police Chiefs Association.
Gov. Phil Bryant still strongly supports the measure, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has stopped short of endorsing it.
In a statement, Reeves said he had heard concerns “about the bill’s impact on law enforcement activities, local government budgets, agricultural and business operations, and the state’s image.”
The local government officials say they fear it would be an unfair mandate on them.
The bill says a law enforcement officer, when arresting a person, must check for immigration status if “a reasonable suspicion exists” and hold the person for deportation if he or she is in the country illegally.
Reeves assigned both the immigration bill and the fetal heartbeat bill to Judiciary B chaired by Hob Bryan, D-Amory.
Bryan said he still has both proposals under consideration. The deadline to pass them out of Judiciary B is Tuesday.
Even if the bills do not pass out of Judiciary B in the Senate, they will remain alive due to action taken Thursday by Gipson’s committee.