Economists aren’t the only ones who think a patchwork of costly state immigration laws is a terrible idea. This week, Mississippi farming and law enforcement groups each sent separate letters urging state lawmakers to reconsider moving forward with Mississippi’s extreme immigration law, HB 488. The groups call the law an “unfunded mandate” and cite the burdensome costs to taxpayers, the discriminatory nature of the law, and the potential loss of tourism, foreign investment and economic development for the state. The Mississippi House passed the bill, which prohibits undocumented immigrants from entering business transactions with the state and allows law enforcement to determine the immigration status of individuals whom they “reasonably suspect” is in the country without documents during an arrest, earlier this month. The Mississippi Senate has until April 3 to consider the bill before it dies.
In their letter to Mississippi lawmakers, the Mississippi Poultry Association, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, Guilt South Blueberry Growers Association, Mississippi Forestry Association and the Mississippi Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, urged lawmakers to oppose HB 488, using the costly impact of Alabama’s immigration law as a cautionary tale. The farming groups pointed out that since Alabama passed a similar restrictive immigration law (HB 56) in June 2011, they have experienced rotting crops, lost income and sales tax revenue, federal lawsuits, and damage to local businesses.
“This bill is essentially an unfunded mandate …HB488 forces state and local officials to undertake this effort with no funding assistance for training or enforcement activities, or legal defense for paying settlements and judgments,” the groups wrote.
“We strongly encourage you to realize its many pitfalls and the associated costs and risks for economic growth to Mississippi.”
The Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association, the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, Mississippi Municipal League and Mississippi Association of Supervisors, also urged lawmakers to oppose HB 488 this week, highlighting potential problems enforcing the law, the costs to defend the law in court, and the costs and burdens passed on to Mississippi taxpayers.
“This legislation would force local property tax payers to house illegal aliens in local jails, pay medical expenses for those jailed illegal aliens, and eventually pay to transport those illegal aliens into federal custody,” the letter says.
“We understand that there is a compelling interest to enforce immigration laws throughout Mississippi, but we can guarantee that Mississippians don’t want this brought about with a federal and state unfunded mandate paid for by their local tax dollars.”
Mississippi’s law enforcement and farming and contractor communities are just the latest in a long line of economists, business, faith and community leaders in other states who have warned lawmakers of the destructive impact of restrictive immigration enforcement bills.
Hopefully, Mississippi legislators will consider these costly consequences before moving forward with HB 488, a law that, if enforced, will affect not just undocumented and documented immigrants, but all Mississippians alike.