Laws are needed on the supply and demand of immigration problem

Published 2:41 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and state lawmakers expended no small amount of energy patting themselves on the back in 2008 after Mississippi adopted the Bryant-backed “E-Verify” law as a means of combatting illegal immigration.

Bryant said in 2008 that such a law was appropriate: “You’ve got someone who has just crossed the border illegally, falsifying (identification). You’re committing an overt act … using false identification to get a job.”

The Legislature passed the Mississippi Employment Protection Act, also referred to as the E-Verify law, in 2008. It has taken effect in phases.

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Companies with more than 30 workers have had to use the Internet-based E-Verify system since July 1 to check the legal status of potential employees. Those with fewer than 30 workers have another year to comply. A person who violates the law faces felony charges punishable by one to five years in prison, a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, or both.

Businesses that knowingly hire an illegal immigrant may lose their licenses for a year and/or lose eligibility to win public, government contracts for three years.

The law was only on the books two months when a massive federal immigration enforcement raid on Howard Industries in Laurel on Aug. 25, 2008, resulted in nearly 600 suspected illegal immigrants being detained when federal agents blocked exits to the sprawling plant, which manufactures electrical transformers.

And truck-wide holes in the E-Verify system remain today. …

If Bryant and lawmakers who are talking a good game on getting tough on illegal immigration are serious, then they must begin with putting some teeth in state laws that provide swift and harsh punishment for Mississippi businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

To date, lobbyists have made sure that hasn’t happened. But before Mississippi attempts to pass an immigration law to address the supply side of illegal immigration, it must also adopt laws to address the demand for illegal immigrant labor among Mississippi businesses.