In 2012, The Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Fought And Defeated A Harsh Anti-Immigration Bill
It’s Black History Month and we want to celebrate by honoring African-Americans who have taken action to help Latino immigrants. Particularly, the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus (MLBC), which helped Latinos in an area of the country that isn’t particularly known for having a strong support system for immigrants—the South.
This group of individuals showed that different ethnicities and races can work together to meet a common goal.
The MLBC partnered with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) to defeat bill HB 488 in Mississippi back in 2012.
Author David Bacon wrote in The Nation that at the time, Tea Party Republicans thought they would get a victory in Mississippi for their anti-immigration bill and had even brought in some additional ammunition to push the Mississippi bill through.
That secret weapon was Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who had helped co-author the dreaded Arizona SB 1070 bill. Kobach was also instrumental is disenfranchising Latino voters in Texas during the 2018 midterm elections.
The MLBC came out to win and they put up a fight in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
At the start of 2012 legislative session, the Legislative Black Caucus started raising their voices to debate the bill.
HB 488 essentially would have made racial profiling the new normal.
It could have stopped undocumented immigrants from receiving the most minimal of benefits such as a license for bicycles or a library card.
“We forced a great debate in the House, until 1:30 in the morning,” state Representative Jim Evans, the caucus leader in Mississippi, told the Nation. “When you have a prolonged debate like that, it shows the widespread concern and disagreement. People began to see the ugliness in this measure.”
The director of the the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) told Bacon black legislators spoke out against the bill throughout the night when the bill was introduced on the floor, debating the use of the term ‘illegal alien’ in the language of the bill while others said it could break families apart and promote ethnic cleansing.
Grassroots protests helped usher in a wave of support against the HB 488 bill.
From employers who had undocumented immigrants as employees to Catholics, Methodists, Jews, Muslims, black caucus members and the activists who worked for MIRA, the mission was simple—strike down bill HB 488 through constant protesting in the Mississippi state legislature.
Finally, the Tea Party supporters were thrown off their anti-immigration bill high horse.
The director of MIRA at the time, Bill Chandler, told the Nation that all of these alliances helped defeat the anti-immigrant bill.
“Because of our history we had a relationship with our allies,” Chandler said. “We need political alliances that mean something in the long term — permanent alliances, and a strategy for winning political power.”
Looking back, history can always teach important lessons—including how seemingly unlikely allies can stand together to fight for a common cause.
To find out more about the defeat of HB 488, click here.
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