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ACLU seeks to untangle Mississippi law...

ACLU seeks to untangle Mississippi law enforcement, ICE cooperation despite state law that mandates it

By: Frank Corder - March 22, 2021

(Photo from Congressman Kevin McCarthy Twitter.)

Amidst a crisis at the Southern border that has been exacerbated by the Biden Administration’s reimplementation of the “catch and release” policy that could see 1 million illegal aliens enter the United States by summer, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi has begun a statewide campaign to untangle the relationship between local law enforcement and federal immigration agencies.

The ACLU of Mississippi is calling the social campaign “Unalienable.”  They say their mission is to tell the stories of those affected by state law enforcement’s partnership with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and advocate to create “a culture and policy landscape that puts public safety and community first.”

“Across the country, Mississippi counties rank amongst the highest in terms of their involvement with ICE, inciting fear across Mississippi’s immigrant communities and introducing a host of public safety hazards at the local level,” the ACLU of Mississippi states in their release.  “Interjurisdictional immigration enforcement dramatically exacerbates discriminatory policing, mass surveillance, public health emergencies, and other aspects of life for Mississippians, both documented and undocumented alike.”

The ACLU says discriminatory policies and practices by local police enforce a system in which these offices represent a pipeline to immigration detention and deportation to the detriment of public safety.  They say legal immigrants and illegal aliens alike avoid getting help when it is needed out of fear.

According to an American Immigration Council report in August 2020, thousands of U.S. citizens in Mississippi live with at least one family member who is undocumented.

  • 20,000 undocumented immigrants comprised 35 percent of the immigrant population and 1 percent of the total state population in 2016.
  • 26,954 people in Mississippi, including 11,239 U.S. citizens, lived with at least one undocumented family member between 2010 and 2014.
  • During the same period, about 1 percent of children in the state were U.S. citizens living with at least one undocumented family member (8,876 children in total).

The report also notes that Mississippi is home to more than a thousand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

  • 1,310 active DACA recipients lived in Mississippi as of March 2020, while DACA has been granted to 1,607 people in total since 2012.
  • As of 2019, 41 percent of DACA-eligible immigrants in Mississippi had applied for DACA.
  • Fewer than 1,000 residents of the state would satisfy all but the educational requirements for DACA, and fewer than 1,000 would become eligible as they grew older.

Politico reported over the weekend that in February, more than 11,000 “family units” — nearly 60 percent of the more than 19,000 that were taken into custody at the border — were allowed to stay in the U.S. while they await their court proceedings, according to CBP statistics. As Politico states, that is up from only 38 percent that were allowed to stay, temporarily, in January.

The Biden Administration is attempting to address the crisis at the Southern border by moving the illegal aliens into other areas, working with Democrat “sanctuary cities” and considering flying thousands to border facilities hundreds of miles away near the Canadian border.

Here in Mississippi, the ACLU of Mississippi says in a tweet: “100% of Mississippi counties have policies or practices that facilitate cooperation w/ ICE – inciting fear across immigrant communities and introducing a host of public safety hazards.”

What the ACLU of Mississippi misses is that this cooperation is, in fact, state law.

Sanctuary cities now illegal in Mississippi

Former Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2710 into law in 2017 making “sanctuary cities” illegal in Mississippi and prohibiting cities, counties, colleges and state agencies from limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The law was authored, in part, by the current head of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell while he served in the state Senate. Secretary of State Michael Watson was also listed as a co-author as a then-state Senator.

The law reads:

“No state agency, department, political subdivision of this state, county, municipality, university, college, community college or junior college, or any agent, employee or officer thereof shall adopt, or implement a policy, order or ordinance that (a) limits or prohibits any person from communicating or cooperating with federal agencies or officials to verify or report the immigration status of any person; or (b) grants to any person the right to lawful presence or status within the state, a county or municipality, or the campus of a university, college, community college or junior college in violation of state or federal law.

“Any policy, order or ordinance adopted in violation of this act shall be invalid and void from the date of its adoption or enactment and shall have no force or effect.”

ICE, at times, requests that localities hold illegal aliens in local jails. “Sanctuary cities” often seek to ignore those detainer requests. The Mississippi law requires compliance with those requests.

The 2017 law meant that a city ordinance in Jackson, the state’s Capital City, that prohibited local police officers from asking for immigration status was no longer allowed.  It also put the City of Jackson in hot water when the Mississippi Justice Institute (MJI) filed a complaint with the Mississippi Ethics Commission that claimed the City was illegally destroying ICE detainers.

“Jackson blatantly violates the law by throwing ICE detainers in the trash can,” said then-MJI Director and now Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. “When MJI asked the City of Jackson what they did with ICE detainers, the City said they do not keep or maintain those records.”

ICE detainers are letters the federal government sends to local law enforcement when ICE believes local police have arrested someone who is in the country illegally. ICE detainers ask local police to hold those suspects until ICE can take custody of the illegal immigrant.

The ACLU of Mississippi’s “Unalienable” campaign would seek to not have Mississippi’s law enforcement cooperate as closely with ICE as prescribed and required in state law.

They say local and federal agencies are collecting individuals’ personal information under the guise of national security “with little to no oversight nor accountability.”  The ACLU also claims that the “trauma of aggressive immigration enforcement continues to tangibly impact immigrants’ access to sensitive locations, regardless of ICE and DHS policies suggesting otherwise.”

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father.