Jackson city leaders have no plans to rollback an ordinance prohibiting police officers from questioning people about their immigration status, which some state officials have said makes the capital city a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
Jackson’s persistence comes amid state and federal promises to crack down on illegal immigration and cities that aid undocumented immigrants.
The Mississippi Legislature this year imposed its own ban on cities and university campuses adopting policies meant to protect undocumented immigrants from the federal government. During at times heated debates on the legislation, several lawmakers pointed to Jackson’s anti-racial profiling ordinance.
Amid debate on the proposal in Mississippi, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced the Trump administration would withhold federal criminal justice grants from cities, counties and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Sessions said state and local jurisdictions must certify they are complying with federal immigration laws in order to receive federal funds.
But Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber said despite the new state law and the Justice Department’s announcement, he does not intend to repeal the anti-profiling ordinance.
“The city of Jackson is the city with soul and you can’t have soul if you don’t care about the folks who have the least,” Yarber told Mississippi Today.
Before signing the anti-sanctuary cities bill into law March 27, Gov. Phil Bryant 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.
Bryant 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.
The ordinance Jackson adopted in 2010 prohibits police from questioning people about their immigration status solely to determine if they are in the country illegally.
It also prohibits police officers from asking about a person’s immigration status if they are seeking police services or is a crime victim or witness. Police officers are allowed to ask about a person’s immigration status when relevant to the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense and while assisting federal law enforcement in the investigation of a criminal offense, among other things.
Senate Bill 2710, which took effect immediately upon Bryant’s signature, voids policies that limit or prohibit any person from communicating or cooperating with federal agencies to verify or report the immigration status of any person.
Ward 4 Councilman De’Keither Stamps also denies that the city’s the ordinance makes Jackson a sanctuary city. Stamps said it’s more about how the city delivers its services than is it about providing a safe haven for undocumented immigrants.
“Jackson is not a sanctuary city,” Stamps said. “ … (The ordinance) has more to do with human rights.”