Mississippi Since E-Verify
By: Rodney Hunt
Filed 7/14/10 GCN
In 2008 the Mississippi Legislature passed historic legislation, The Mississippi Employment Protection Act (SB 2988), requiring all employers in the state to utilize the free on-line federal database, E-Verify, to confirm the work eligibility of newly hired employees. This legislation was written to be phased in over four years with compliance corresponding with the number of employees in the business. This is the third year of the phase in and it now requires businesses with 30 or more employees to use E-Verify with universal compliance mandated by July 1, 2011. (Photo right: Rodney Hunt)
Five state agencies were given the authority to seek penalties and bring charges for non-compliance against an unlawful employer or employee. At a meeting of these agencies after the passage of SB 2988 it was decided that the Attorney General’s Office would be the best suited agency for compliance issues since they had investigators and attorneys to bring charges. There has not been public disclosure of any disciplinary action taken by the Attorney General.
In the 2010 legislative session three bills written to protect our citizens and legal immigrants from the effects of illegal immigration were overwhelmingly passed by the Senate but died in the House by pocket veto.
SB 2065 required state agencies that administer social programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and the W.I.C. Program to verify the lawful presence in the U.S. of applicants using a screening mechanism under the direction of the Dept. of Homeland Security. This bill passed the Senate unanimously, 51-0 (1 vacancy), but died when Rep. Willie Bailey, Chairman of the House Judiciary B Committee, would not allow a committee vote. A bill that passed without a dissenting vote in the Senate was killed by one man.
SB 2032, The Immigration Reform Act of 2010, created penalties for false I.D., transport and harboring of illegal aliens, required verification of citizenship or immigration status of persons who were arrested, and outlawed sanctuary cites. It passed the Senate 44-5 but was also denied a committee vote by Rep. Bailey.
SB 2069, which would have provided for the conditional release of an offender to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), passed the Senate 50-1, but was denied a vote by Rep. Ed Blackmon, the Chairman of the House Judiciary A Committee.
Our state and nation are in a financial crisis. In Mississippi we have an 11.2% unemployment rate which represents over 144,000 citizens who are actively looking for work. There are over 600,000 people on Medicaid and 450,000 on food stamps. Yet, there are those in the media sympathetic to illegal immigration that say that “cooler heads have prevailed” to prevent additional enforcement legislation and advocacy groups who celebrated the death of these bills by giving credit to the “Democrat controlled House leadership…”. Who is ultimately responsible for the fate of these bills in the House?
House Speaker Billy McCoy owes his position of power to a coalition that includes the MS Legislative Black Caucus and rural white Democrats. The Black Caucus is greatly influenced by Rep. Jim Evans, who is also the President of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), an advocacy organization for illegal immigrants. In order to maintain his coalition Speaker McCoy has appointed some members of this caucus to powerful committee chairmanships that will block any immigration enforcement legislation.
This position contrasts to views held by the former U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Executive Director, Dr. Frank Morris, who stated that “America’s leaders need to wake up. It’s a fact that foreign workers are taking jobs and depressing wages of Americans from all backgrounds. However, Black workers are the ones being disproportionately affected.”
There is no doubt that the blocked legislation would have passed overwhelmingly if Speaker McCoy had directed these committee chairmen to bring these bills up for a vote.
So, the responsibility starts and ends with the Speaker, and similar legislation will not become law until the House leadership is changed or Democrats begin to represent the will of the majority of Mississippians.
Contact your elected House member and ask them what action they plan to take.