By NEMS Daily Journal
The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday passed 34-15 an Arizona-style immigration law enforcement bill despite the absence of hard evidence that Mississippi has anything like a “border state” problem with illegal immigration and without the explicit endorsement of either Gov. Haley Barbour or Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson.
At its heart, the bill empowers Mississippi law enforcement officers to check the legal resident/citizenship status of people stopped for routine traffic violations and other situations, and then requires hearings, housing of detainees and transport to federal authorities.
As Gov. Barbour – no softy when it comes to immigration enforcement – has noted in earlier interviews, Mississippi does not have the kind of immigration situation as Arizona, Texas, California and New Mexico.
He also has noted illegal immigrants provided indispensable manpower during the rebuilding of the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, in 2005 – without apparent protest.
The governor’s notation suggests that objections to illegal immigrants in Mississippi are at least in part situational – and in 2011 the situation is not hurricane recovery but political advantage for the 2011 state elections.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who seeks to succeed Barbour, and Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, the bill’s principal author, are the main proponents. Fillingane admitted during debate Tuesday that there is no hard evidence showing how many illegal immigrants are in Mississippi.
The Legislature should act on facts, not conjecture.
Commissioner Simpson has said the bill would cost taxpayers an additional $1.2 million because of the requirements placed on law enforcement officers and agencies.
In addition, local sheriffs would then have to pay to house the illegal immigrants in county jails and move them to the closest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, in Louisiana.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Barbour said border states “have issues to deal with we don’t have to deal with,” meaning “there are a lot of things that are very appropriate to put in the law in Arizona or Texas that are unnecessary here.”
Barbour said in a September interview on the website of the conservative publication “Human Events” that “I don’t know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn’t been for the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild, and there’s no doubt in my mind that some of them weren’t here legally.
“… A lot of this is just common sense, and common sense tells us we’re not gonna take ten or twelve or fourteen million people and put them in jail and deport them. We’re not gonna do it … some of the people need to quit acting like we are, and let’s talk about real solutions.”
The House should heed Barbour and Simpson.