Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance

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Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance


Board of Directors Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance 2011-2012;[1]


Killing Bills

In 2011 Arizona like anti-immigration bills were sweeping the South. But in Mississippi, a strong alliance including the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus killed some 33 bills; including 5 “Arizona clones,” meant to “frighten ‘illegal aliens’ out of Mississippi” as several Republican senators stated as they clamored for passage of these proposals.

Mississippi's SB 2179 was the last of a whole host of bills that would have "increased already present discrimination and racial profiling in Mississippi". Activists mobilized across Mississippi and came to the state capital and spoke out. The Jackson daily Clarion-Ledger stated “They were all colors and races; members of the NAACP, life long Mississippians and naturalized citizens”. Tatiana Sabogal was quoted in The Clarion-Ledger saying, “It's racial profiling whether you have documents or not. Because you look different or sound different, you become a target.” She stated that she came because she has both legal and undocumented members in her family and their rights should not be violated.

Organized largely by Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, MIRA’s Director, Bill Chandler (and CCDS NCC member) stated, “This law is a challenge to who we are as a state and who we are as human beings. The proposal only pandered to the fear, xenophobia and bigotry of only some of our residents. This legislation violates the civil rights of all residents of Mississippi. We need to ask our selves what kind of state we want to live in—one that respects human rights, or one that returns to the days of trampling on the rights of people of color.”

And in the midst of the fight to kill those bills, 58 Latino immigrants were arrested when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided apartment complexes in various communities surrounding Jackson, Mississippi’s state capitol. Jackson may have been avoided by ICE, due to the recent passage of an anti-racial profiling ordinance enacted by the majority Black city council at the behest of MIRA. “What's taking place is overt racial profiling” Bill Chandler told reporters. In August 2008 a raid in Laurel Mississippi occurred, the largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, which resulted in the arrest of 592 workers and the deportation of most of them, breaking up families and spreading undue hardship.

MIRA worked very hard to oppose these attacks though grassroots organizing, mobilizing and education. MIRA has also been in the forefront in the campaign to free the Scott Sisters, which they see as directly related to the attacks on Latinos. The Scott Sisters symbolize the incarceration of people of color in huge numbers, ultimately denying enfranchisement upon their release. MIRA has a broad platform of issues. They work very much in the grassroots traditions of Mississippi. It was just through this kind of work that MIRA was able to defeat all 33 of the anti-immigrant bills in the Mississippi legislature this year including SB 2179!

Besides MIRA and the Mississippi Black Legislative Caucus that includes 13 of 52 State Senators, and 37 of 122 State Representatives, and several white rural Democrats including the Speaker of the House, strong grassroots support came from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, statewide NAACP, Southern Echo, the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees/Communications Workers of America, the United Auto Workers, the Mississippi American Civil Liberties Union, the Mississippi Human Services Coalition, the Mississippi Worker’s Center for Human Rights, the Unitarian Universalist Church from several Mississippi cities, students from various historically Black universities, Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, and many others including Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba. Most importantly, the active mobilization at the Mississippi state capitol, by hundreds of courageous immigrants themselves, including many without “papers,” was responsible for the victory during the 2011 Mississippi Legislative Session.[2]