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Elena Lacayo Headshot

Will Mississippi Choose the Higher Road or Follow Down a Misguided Path?

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It appears some of Mississippi's lawmakers are showing neighborly love in the worst way possible-by attempting to push through a copy of Alabama's HB 56 in their own legislature. Like its widely reviled predecessor, Mississippi's HB 488 is designed to make living conditions so unbearable for immigrants that they have no choice but to uproot their families and leave the state. And in the process of doing so, the law would trample on the civil rights of citizens, lead to enormous economic losses to the state, and encourage racial profiling and discrimination against all communities of color.

The author and the supporters of this bill seem to be turning a blind eye to the detrimental effects that such legislation has had on other states and will have on their own state. Arizona's SB 1070, the first of these extreme laws, has led to $750 million in losses to that state. Farmers in South Carolina and Georgia, where copycat bills passed, are facing debilitating labor shortages that pose serious threats to the economic well-being of the their states. And in every state where an Arizona-style anti-immigrant law has been approved, the laws have not only been legally challenged, but have had portions of the bills blocked by the courts.

Furthermore, when State Rep. Becky Currie authored this bill, she chose to duplicate the harshest and hands down most reprehensible anti-immigrant law to date, HB 56. Alabama's law is so bad that many of those who initially supported that bill admitted that changes needed to be made in the wake of the resulting consequences and are currently grappling with how to make those adjustments. More than a thousand children were pulled out of schools after the HB 56 brought immigration enforcement into Alabama's classrooms. In an embarrassing move that local authorities most definitely do not want to repeat, a German Mercedes-Benz manager was detained and a Japanese Honda manager was charged for not carrying the required documents under the law. To top it all off, a study published by the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama shows that HB 56 could shrink Alabama's economy by $2.3 billion annually and will cost the state no less than 70,000 jobs.

While the legislature ultimately stripped some provisions from the bill, opposition to the proposal has grown out of the concern that it will nonetheless lead to discrimination, economic losses, and a tarnished state image. In fact, yesterday a broad and impressive coalition of Mississippi law enforcement officials, county administrators, business associations, building contractors, and agriculture groups, publicly announced their opposition to HB 488, severely hindering its support in the state.

Mississippi cannot be another lemming that blindly follows others to its doom. Lawmakers must seriously weigh the consequences that passing this bill could have on its economy and its citizens. And like Alabama, Mississippi's attempt to pass anti-Latino legislation signals to the rest of the country and the world that the state is all-too willing to return to its dark past with civil rights, where racial profiling and discrimination was the law of the land. This is not a part Mississippi's history worth repeating.

These anti-immigrant and anti-Latino laws, along with the voter suppression laws that have been passed under the guise of immigration reform, have made it altogether clear that discrimination is a common struggle that affects many communities and that this is a paramount moment to come together to protect Americans' civil rights. This is why earlier this month, NCLR, along with a coalition of other civil rights organizations, including National Action Network, the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and a host of other organizations, labor groups, and committed individuals, marched from Selma to Montgomery to demand that lawmakers protect our civil rights by restoring voting rights and repealing HB 56. We need to stand strong with our brothers and sisters and show Alabama, Mississippi, and every other state that Americans will not stand for laws that trample on liberty and justice for all.

This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.