National Immigration Forum

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Mississippi Economic Recovery Threatened by Anti-Immigrant Legislation

February 02, 2011 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

This post was written by Forum intern Charles Gillig


In a tough economy, the people of Mississippi need solutions to the state’s pressing needs. Aiming state resources at removing immigrants will not fix Mississippi’s problems. On January 18th, the Mississippi State Senate tried to do just that by passing SB 2179, a bill based on Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 legislation that is meant to crack down on undocumented immigrants. 


Enactment of this bill would be a financial disaster for Mississippi’s economy. Like much of the country, Mississippi currently faces a large deficit and high unemployment. The recovery has been slow and people want change. Enacting anti-immigrant legislation will derail the economic recovery by taking away a critical portion of the workforce: immigrant labor.


In the last instance of major economic decline, the period following Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi relied on immigrants to help reignite the economy. In a recent interview, Governor Haley Barbour acknowledged the importance of immigrants to the state economy by stating,


"I don't know where we would have been in Mississippi after Katrina if it hadn't been for the Spanish speakers that came in to help rebuild, and there's no doubt in my mind that some of them weren't here legally… if they hadn't come and stayed for a few months or a couple of years, we would be way, way, way behind where we are now."


It is difficult to imagine how Mississippi might pay for a law like SB 2179.  Arizona’s implementation of SB 1070 has been prohibitively expensive and, simply put, Mississippi cannot afford to enact this kind of anti-immigrant legislation.  In addition to their inherent constitutional and social flaws, policies like those enshrined in SB 2179 risk further exacerbating budgets woes, and divert attention away from more pressing issues facing Mississippi, like the economy, jobs and education. It therefore is critical to Mississippi’s economic recovery that immigrants are embraced by the state, not pushed away through destructive legislation.


To read more about the Mississippi budget cuts, the economic power of immigrants in Mississippi, and the potential impact of an SB 1070-style law, please see the links below.


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