No sanctuary for undocumented immigrants

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Mississippi cities, counties, community colleges and universities are officially banned from adopting policies meant to protect undocumented immigrants from the federal government.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Gov. Phil Bryant

Gov. Phil Bryant on Monday signed Senate Bill 2710, which takes effect immediately by voiding policies that municipalities, counties and agencies may adopt to limit or prohibit any person from communicating or cooperating with federal agencies to verify or report the immigration status of any person.

The law also voids any policies that grant a person lawful presence or status within the state, whether that is in a county or city, or a university, college, community college or junior college.

Bryant’s Facebook page featured a live video of him signing the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport.

Before signing, Bryant said Senate Bill 2710 falls in line with President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order calling for “enhancing public safety in the interior of the United States.” This executive order allows state and local law enforcement officials to carry out functions of immigration officers when it comes to investigation, apprehension or detention of undocumented immigrants in the United States and declines cities’ and counties’ eligibility to receive federal grants if they do not comply.

The governor also acknowledged the city of Jackson in 2010 passed what it called an anti-racial-profiling ordinance that prohibits police officers from asking about suspects’ immigration status during routine traffic stops.

He also mentioned proposed Associated Student Body legislation at the University of Mississippi in support of the university becoming a formal “sanctuary campus” for undocumented community leaders.

A draft of that resolution was dismissed by university officials before student government members could take up the subject.

“At that time, as I remember, the chancellor said that University of Mississippi would follow the law,” Bryant said. “We want to make sure today that he clearly understands, as do all Mississippians, that it would be against the law to form such a sanctuary city or university.”

Bryant has long been critical of illegal immigration. When he was state auditor, he commissioned a 2006 report that estimated some 49,000 undocumented immigrants cost state taxpayers $25 million.

The report is often cited in political circles as evidence that undocumented immigrants hurt Mississippi’s economy. Critics of Bryant’s study have said it ignored the contributions of immigrants, including sales tax paid and local property taxes they pay when they buy homes.

The bill was signed into law on the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a federal crackdown on sanctuary cities. He said the Trump administration would withhold federal criminal justice grants from cities, counties and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The announcement drew protests from groups such as the National League of Cities.

The law should not have a significant effect on Mississippi. In floor debate, supporters of this year’s legislation noted that no Mississippi communities have passed so-called sanctuary regulations attempting to escape from enforcing federal immigration law.

Sessions said state and local jurisdictions must certify they are complying with federal immigration laws in order to receive federal funds. That raises the question of Jackson’s status. In 2010, the city council passed an anti-racial profiling law that prohibits police from questioning people about their immigration status solely to determine if they are in the country illegally.