Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mississippi Republicans Up to No Good

From the Mississippie Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)

For a long time, the Mississippi House of Representatives was the only legislative chamber in the South controlled by Democrats.  That enabled all of the members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus to be named committee chairs or vice-chairs.  Our alliance with them over the years helped kill some 230 anti-immigrant bills, led by Rep. Jim Evans, who is President of MIRA. All of that has changed with the 2011 elections.  Now there are very few African-Americans leading any significant committee.

Below are summaries prepared by MIRA Legal Project intern, Andrew Stankevich, of the first racist, anti-immigrant bills introduced into the 2012 session of the Mississippi Legislature.  These first bills are all Senate versions, with more to come from that chamber.  The House has been slow to introduce bills, not because there are few, but with the Republicans in charge now for the first time, the new House leadership has had trouble getting started with their legislative process.  We expect many anti-immigrant bills to come from  that chamber as so many are ALEC members and Tea Baggers.

Our “new” Governor, Phil Bryant, is out of that group and triggered the xenophobia in Mississippi years ago with his overt attacks on immigrants.

2012 Anti-Immigrant Bills Summaries, Introduced into the Mississippi Legislature, as of 1/31/12

Senate Bill 2022 (Fillingane).  All higher learning institutions must verify immigration status of all students who receive financial aid, grants, or scholarships.  No unauthorized student may receive any such benefit.
Senate Bill 2089 (Fillingane) & Senate Bill 2089 (Watson).  Changes to 71-11-3. Mississippi Employment Protection Act.  Employers shall not knowingly hire an employee unauthorized to work, or knowingly hire such an employee through a third party.  District Attorney or Attorney General can investigate and DA’s Office will prosecute.  For first violation, employer will be on 3 year probation period where they will report every new employee’s information to the DA’s Office on a quarterly basis and have their licenses suspended for a minimum of 10 days.  Employers in violation will be published on AG’s website.  DA or AG’s Office will notify federal immigration enforcement entities of unauthorized workers, as well as local law enforcement.  Second violation will permanently revoke all of employer’s licenses.  Proof of employment verification will create a rebuttable presumption that employer did not knowingly hire unauthorized employee.  All employers must keep e-verification records on all employees for at least 3 years.  It will be a misdemeanor offense for an unauthorized foreign national to solicit work, even with gestures and nods in a public place.  Bill expands the state entities which can impose sanctions or penalties under the law to include the Dept. of Revenue, Board of Public Contractors, as well as any other government entity.  AG’s or DA’s Office must respond to written complaints using proper form without notarization, but can respond to complaints in any format, including anonymous complaints.  Knowingly filing a frivolous complaint will be a misdemeanor offense.
Senate Bill 2090 (Fillingane).  If during a lawful stop, arrest of detention, any law enforcement official, be they municipal or state, if such official has reasonable suspicion that individual is residing in the United States without authorization, the official will make a reasonable attempt to determine such status.  Police will determine immigration status of arrestees prior to release, even if arrest was warrantless.  Only federally approved individuals will verify immigration statuses. If convicted of any violation or crime, police will notify federal agents or may transport to such.  Judicial approval required for transportation out-of-state.  No government entity shall restrict a government official from providing or maintaining information regarding peoples’ immigration status for purposes of official business.  Private individuals may bring actions for $500 - $5,000 (plus court costs and attorneys’ fees) per day against any state actor who impedes the enforcement of federal immigration laws.  Misdemeanor offense for authorized foreign national to not have papers and will assume liability for jail costs.  Housing, driving, encouraging/inducing unauthorized people to come to MS becomes a misdemeanor (min. $1,000 fine) or felony if involving 10 (min. $1,000 fine per person) or more people.  Mandatory vehicle impound for driving unauthorized foreign nationals.  Providing charitable services, like medical, legal, food, or shelter, shall be legal.       
Senate Bill No. 2228 (McDaniel, Watson, Gandy, Hill).  The parole board may release a non-violent offender who has served one half of their minimum sentence into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for removal from the U.S..  If the offender returns to the U.S. after removal or if ICE does not remove the offender, such individual will serve the maximum length of their sentence minus time served.
Senate Bill 2231 (McDaniel, Watson, Gandy, Hill).  Verification of lawful presence in MS shall be required whenever anyone 14 years or older applies for local, state, or federal benefits. Emergency health services, non-cash emergency disaster relief, health assistance related to communicable diseases, as well as emergency mental health, food, and shelter services are exceptions to this law.  Prior to dispersing services, MS government entities must require applicant to execute affidavit under penalty of perjury stating that they are lawfully present in the U.S.  False statements in affidavits shall be considered “False Representations to Defraud Government,” subject to as much as $10,000 fine and incarceration of up to 5 years.  Then, eligibility of benefits shall be made through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement Program (SAVE).  Affidavit will create presumption of lawful presence while waiting for SAVE results.  Agencies may adopt variations to these requirements when such would impose an unusual hardship on a lawful MS resident.  Agencies will report compliance to MS AG’s Office.  AG’s Office will report non-compliance to U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, as well as to report if SAVE prevented lawful MS residents from accessing services.  
Senate Bill 2232 (McDaniel, Watson, Gandy, Hill).  No government official within the State of MS shall limit or restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.  No government entity shall restrict a government official from providing or maintaining information regarding peoples’ immigration status for purposes of official business.
Senate Bill 2284 (Watson, McDaniel).  Changes to 63-1-60 & 45-35-13, MS Code of 1972.  For 21 year and older offenders who unlawfully duplicate a driver’s license, display another’s license as their own, fraudulently alter a license, lend a license to another for unlawful purposes, etc… a lawful resident will be guilty of a felony, no more than 3 years of imprisonment and not less than a $5,000 fine under either statute.  However, the amended bill makes an unlawful resident who committed the same offense under either statute shall be guilty of a felony and serve no more than 10 years in jail and not less than a $10,000 fine.
Except for charitable services, the bill will make knowingly, or with reckless disregard for one’s unauthorized immigration status, providing shelter or transportation to an unauthorized foreign national a felony punishable by at least 1 year incarceration and/or at least $1,000 fine.
The bill will authorize and direct the Commissioner of Public Safety to enter into a written agreement between the U.S. Dept. of Justice or the Dept. of Homeland Security to train MS law enforcement.  MS law enforcement will act as federal agents in regards to determining the immigration status, detaining and transporting unauthorized foreign nationals into federal custody.  No MS government entity will enact any policy preventing such law enforcement from performing such functions.  Whenever law enforcement charge and detain a person with a crime or violation and place under arrest, law enforcement will make a reasonable effort to verify the immigration status.  If law enforcement arrests a foreign national, law enforcement will verify the foreign national’s immigration status prior to release.  No government entity shall prevent the communication or maintenance of immigration status information.

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