There's a new SB 1070 on the block, and this one comes out of Mississippi. On Tuesday the Mississippi State Senate passed SB 2179, a measure that allows law enforcement officers to check a person's immigration status during a traffic stop or while enforcing other laws. In doing so the state became the first legislature to make good on its talk of passing a law that mimics Arizona's SB 1070.
SB 2179's chief backer is Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican in a majority Democrat chamber.
The Clarion-Ledger reports that Fillingane considers SB 2179 an improvement over SB 1070 because law enforcement officers are allowed to inquire about a person's status only while in the course of enforcing other laws, making such a check a "secondary status."
"We did not want anyone to go out and start picking on or racial profiling people," Fillingane told the paper.
SB 1070 allows for a law enforcement official to inquire about a person's status in the course of "any lawful stop, detention or arrest...in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States." SB 2179 allows law enforcement officers to stop any person who is stopped for violating traffic laws.
Mississippi's SB 2179 also makes it a state crime to be caught without immigration papers and allows law enforcement to arrest, "without warrant," a person "reasonably believed" to be in the country without papers.
The bill now moves on to the House, where it must be voted on to get out of committee. All eyes are on Gov. Haley Barbour, who last year said that such anti-immigration laws were worthwhile, but added that immigrants had contributed a great deal to his state.
"I don't think there's any question that we had a tremendous number of people come in, and I have no doubt some of them weren't here legally," Barbour said, Fox News Latino reported. "I don't know where we'd have been without them."
Barbour will choose his words carefully; he's being termed out and is widely expected to have presidential aspirations.
Mississippi is also talking about introducing other anti-immigration laws, like one that require anyone who has a state driver's license to speak English, or a law that would mandate state documents only be available in English.
"Latinos are the new target," Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance executive director Bill Chandler told the Clarion-Ledger last week. "Many of these bills are based on false perception."