Despite the harm caused by a harsh immigration law in the neighboring state of Alabama, Mississippi State Rep. Becky Currie (R) filed a bill, HB 488, that would implement an Alabama-style law in Mississippi. Unlike anti-immigrant laws in states like Georgia and Arizona, Currie’s bill includes Alabama’s unconstitutional provisions driving the children of immigrants out of schools and potentially making it a felony for undocumented immigrants to take a shower.
Significantly, Currie is a member of the organization State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI), an anti-immigrant group of 65 lawmakers whose members “have promoted conspiracy theories about supposed government concentration camps and a coming one-world government, as well as false claims that President Obama is a foreigner and a Muslim.” SLLI also touts its “working partnership” with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant group designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FAIR, whose attorneys include Romney immigration advisor Kris Kobach, draft much of the legislation pushed by SLLI members.
Like Alabama’s law, Currie’s bill would require schools to check a newly enrolled student’s citizenship or legal resident status, according to the bill:
“Every public elementary and secondary school in this state…shall determine whether the student enrolling in public school was born outside the jurisdiction of the United States or is the child of an alien not lawfully present in the United States.”
When Alabama schools began enforcing the same policy, students with immigrant parents were terrified. Many stayed home, and more left Alabama schools permanently as their families fled the state. The Justice Department even stepped in to ensure that the law was not stopping students’ right to an education. Students in Mississippi could face the same fear under the proposed law.
HB 488 would also prevent an undocumented immigration from entering “into or attempt to enter into a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state.” This provision is open-ended, “including, but not limited to, applying for or renewing a motor vehicle license plate, applying for or renewing a driver’s license or nondriver identification card, or applying for or renewing a business license.” A similar provision in Alabama was interpreted so broadly that public utility companies refused service to anyone who could not prove they are a legal resident or citizen. Under this interpretation, it became a felony for an undocumented immigrant to simply have water at his home to take a bath.
Alabama should serve as a prime example to Mississippi of the harm that can come from extreme immigration policies designed to do little more than make the lives of undocumented immigrants impossible in that state. But it is unlikely that legislators who agree with Currie will listen.