By Bobby Harrison/Daily Journal
JACKSON — The House passed late Wednesday night by a 68-49 margin a proposal designed to deter illegal immigrants in Mississippi.
The House — continuing to work past midnight as they rushed to meet today’s deadline to pass legislation out of their chamber — debated the controversial proposal for more than two hours.
“This bill is not profiling, starving… any person,” said Judiciary B Chair Andy Gipson, R-Braxton. “It is about the rule of law…It is against the law to be here illegally in Mississippi.”
Rep Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, said, “This bill will displace families…I wonder if this bill lacks the full measure of Christian compassion most of us espouse to.”
Gipson offered and passed amendments on the floor that he said were designed to take out any constitutional challenges of the bill. He said various federal courts have blocked portions of similar laws passed by other states. He said those portions, such as requiring “papers” of a person believed to be in the country illegally, had been removed from the proposal considered by the Mississippi House.
He called it “the most compassionate” of the various anti illegal immigration proposals considered across the country.
“Your bill has no provision…to show any compassion to children who will be left behind,” said Rep. Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs.
The bill says a law enforcement officer, when arresting a person must check for the immigration status if “a reasonable suspension exists.” Language requiring a law enforcement officer to check for immigration status when making a stop was removed.
An amendment, opposed by the leadership, was approved removing a requirement that school districts be required to verify whether their students are legal residents of the country.
The bill would allow lawsuits to be filed against so-called sanctuary cities that have a policy of not checking for immigration status.
Various agriculture-related groups have expressed concerns that they depend on immigrants, many of whom might be illegal, to perform various farm-related jobs. Similar legislation in Alabama, they say, had negative impact on the ag industry.