Today, Mississippi’s extreme immigration bill, HB 488, died after a state senate committee chairman decided not to bring the bill up for a vote. The Mississippi Senate had until today to consider HB 488, a bill that would have, among other things, allowed police officers to determine the immigration status of individuals they “reasonably suspect” are in the country without documents. While HB 488 is dead, however, state House members may still be looking to keep these immigration enforcement measures alive by inserting them in other bills.
Hob Bryan, Mississippi’s Senate Judiciary B Committee chairman, decided not to bring HB 488 up for a vote today “because he believes it attempts to micromanage the way police officers and sheriffs do their jobs,” according to the Associated Press. Mississippi law enforcement officers agree.
Last week, the Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association, Chiefs of Police, Municipal League and Association of Supervisors, urged lawmakers to oppose HB 488 last week. In a letter, the groups called the law an “unfunded mandate” and highlighted problems enforcing the law as well as the cost to taxpayers.
“This legislation would force local property tax payers to house illegal aliens in local jails, pay medical expenses for those jailed illegal aliens, and eventually pay to transport those illegal aliens into federal custody,” the letter says.
Mississippi farming groups also came out against HB 488 last week, asking lawmakers to consider the impact of neighboring Alabama’s immigration law . Since Alabama passed their immigration law (HB 56) last year, the groups said, the state has been subject to costly federal lawsuits, rotting crops, lost income and sales tax revenue, federal lawsuits, and damage to local businesses.
Although many have come out against Mississippi’s and Alabama’s immigration measures due to associated costs, others have criticized their severity. In addition to the “reasonable suspicion” provision—which many charge encourages racial profiling—the laws originally made it illegal for undocumented immigrants to enter into business transactions with the state, including access to basic utilities, like water, gas, and electric services. These bills also originally included provisions that required public schools to determine the legal status of enrolling students and made it a crime to fail to carry proper immigration documents. These provisions, however, have since been stripped and modified by legislators or in Alabama’s case, enjoined by the courts.
Many, however, still worry about how these anti-immigration measures will impact their state’s reputation, which may deter foreign investment, tourism and business opportunities as similar immigration measures have in other states.
Mississippi’s legislative session ends May 11, 2012.