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Will it be Illegal to be Brown in Mississippi?

11 April 2016 No Comment

Members of Cooperation Jackson protesting SB 2306 and other discriminatory legislation

And how a major unfunded mandate hangs local and municipal government out to dry.

A dangerous bill is pending. Senate Bill 2306 is defined as:

“An act to prohibit the establishment of sanctuary cities; to authorize all Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers to assist federal agencies by legally detaining illegal aliens; to indemnify law enforcement officers for implementation of this act; and for related purposes.” The remaining text of the bill is short, and we urge you to read it here.

Senate Bill 2306 (SB 2306) is bad for public safety, bad for local communities, and bad for Mississippi.  This bill creates a limitless mandate for law enforcement agencies in Mississippi to “assist” the federal government in the enforcement of immigration laws; exposes local agencies to liability; and will cost local communities thousands of dollars that could be better spent on issues of local concern.

Originally introduced in the Senate, this bill passed the Senate and moved to the House where it was passed as a “strike-all” bill, meaning that the majority of the language it contains was eliminated to create more of a generalized policy against immigrants instead of a specific mandate to law enforcement. This house version of the bill has now been sent back to the originating chamber, in the Senate, for a vote to either concur in the changes or to conference on them.

The bill is on the calendar and likely to come up for a vote on Tuesday, April 14. While we don’t support any anti-immigrant legislation, this milder version is far less dangerous for immigrants than the original Senate version of the bill.

Here are a few of the specific ways in which SB2306 is terrible for our state:

  • SB 2306 is a purported solution in search of a problem.  Even the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sean Tindell admitted that there are in fact no “sanctuary cities” in Mississippi. If SB 2306 becomes law, every local community in Mississippi would be exposed to potential liability for constitutional violations while sacrificing more pressing public safety concerns.
  • SB 2306 also reaches far beyond what is currently required under federal law, pushing police departments to prioritize the enforcement of federal immigration law at every turn, above their primary mission and goal, which is to ensure public safety.
  • SB 2306 would undermine community safety by interfering with common-sense police efforts to assure that crime victims and witnesses feel safe when interacting with police to help solve and prevent crimes. As one Mississippi Senator put it, “Under this legislation, if a victim reports something to the authorities, the authorities are obligated to call up the feds and tell them to come pick up the victim.”
  • SB 2306 mandates every Mississippi law enforcement agency to utilize scarce jail resources and beds to hold individuals at federal immigration officials’ request. Local agencies are not reimbursed for the cost of detaining these individuals and could be liable in federal court for constitutional violations that may result (see below).
  • SB 2306 will leave local communities to foot the bill for any liability that results from the bill’s mandates.
  • Many localities across the country that chose to honor ICE detainers have been held financially liable for civil rights violations resulting from unlawful detentions on ICE detainers.
  • SB 2306’s indemnification clause will not insulate local agencies from this liability.  First, state law can never insulate a local agency from liability in federal court based on a violation of federal law.  Second, SB 2306’s “protections” hinge the indemnification of local agencies on the actions of a third party—ICE.  According to SB 2306’s requirements, a local agency is protected from liability for detentions made as a result of an ICE detainer where they are supported by probable cause.  This means that local agencies are protected only if immigration officials had sufficient evidence amounting to probable cause before they issued the ICE detainer.  But as multiple federal court cases have found, ICE detainers are often not supported by probable cause.

We urge you to call your state Senators and Representatives and ask them to reject this proposal. Call the Capitol Switchboard and leave a message with the receptionist, asking your legislator to call you back. You can reach the switchboard at: 601.359.3770

For more information on this legislation, see MIRA ally Rims Barber’s article in the Clarion Ledger here, “Sanctuary Cities Bill an Unfunded Mandate on Police.”

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