Mississippi law enforcement officers could be tasked with verifying the status of people they suspect are in the United States illegally if the state House agrees to an Arizona-styled immigration bill making its way through the Capitol.Senate Bill 2179
passed the Senate 34-15 Tuesday after a heated debate that lasted more than four hours while opponents and supporters, including tea party members, watched from the fourth-floor gallery.
Its fate in the Democrat-controlled chamber remains unclear.
Similar immigration enforcement bills that went to the House last year died in committee, but lawmakers - particularly conservative Democrats mounting re-election campaigns - may be more favorable to the legislation this year.
House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, said he's not sure which committee will get Senate Bill 2179 but it originated in Senate Judiciary A, so it could go to his corresponding group.
"If it does come to my committee, I will look at it very seriously and try to get as much information on it as possible," Blackmon said. "I think there needs to be some close scrutiny on the actual impact of this legislation."
During the Senate debate, lawmakers questioned the bill's impact on legal immigrants, cities, law enforcement agencies and a host of other groups.
The bill would authorize local law enforcement officers to check a person's immigration status if "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person may be in the country illegally during any "lawful stop, detention or arrest."
With the status check pushed back to a secondary status - as opposed to the Arizona bill's primary status, Senate Judiciary A Chairman Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, said he thinks the Mississippi bill is an improvement.
"We did not want anyone to go out and start picking on or racial profiling people," he said.Clarion Ledger