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March Madness Is Newest Stage for Mississippi's Anti-Immigrant Law

Molly Lauterback,
Immigrants' Rights Project
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March 16, 2012

The NCAA college basketball tournament began yesterday and as thousands of fans cheered on their favorite teams, one player found out he had more to handle than just making his free throw. Kansas State University freshman guard, Angel Rodriguez, had just been fouled by a player from Southern Mississippi University with a couple minutes left in the first half when members of the Southern Miss band started chanting “where’s your green card?” Mr. Rodriguez, who was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ignored the chanting and his team went on to win the game, 70-64.


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This mean-spirited, ugly attack on Mr. Rodriguez is shameful, but unfortunately it’s not just an isolated incident. The students from Southern Miss were simply echoing the sentiments of their state and local leaders.

Mississippi’s immigration law, House Bill 488, which passed through the House in the state legislature Thursday would require Mississippi law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of any arrested person thought to be here unlawfully. The bill is similar to those passed in states like Alabama, Arizona and Georgia and, although Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant claims that “no one wants to target Hispanics,” H.B. 488 includes provisions that would not only negatively impact the lives of all immigrant families in the state but would foster intolerant, xenophobic attitudes.

We already have seen firsthand the divisive environment created by these hateful laws. Since H.B. 56 in Alabama went into effect, the impact on young people, especially young Latinos, has been devastating. Students regularly report of being racially profiled not only by other students but by teachers and administrators as well. During a pep rally at a local high school, students started shouting “Mexicans move to the back” at a group of their Latino peers and, while sitting in class, a teacher gave a young Latina student papers explaining the law since she wasn’t “from here.” The girl is a U.S. citizen and her father is a lawful permanent resident.

In spite of the well documented harms occurring in Alabama, Bryant stated that it’s “boat-rocking time” in Mississippi, calling for swift support of this divisive racial profiling law. If Bryant is looking to Alabama, Georgia, and other states with similar legislation for inspiration, the racially motivated chants by Southern Miss band members should come as no surprise. If, however, he wants his state to be free from bigotry and set a clear example as the state’s leader, it is imperative he veto H.B. 488.

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