Protestors, some of them children, marched on the state Capitol last Thursday, holding signs reading “Working should not be a crime,” “Raids tear families apart,” and “Si se pueda” (“Yes we can”). About 50 immigrants and immigrant-rights advocates protested recent raids on undocumented workers at a factory in Laurel and the passage of Senate Bill 2988, a new law making it illegal for undocumented workers to be employed in the state.
Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Executive Director Bill Chandler called the law, known as the Mississippi Employment Protection Act, the “ethnic cleansing act.”
Sen. Giles Ward, R-Louisville, said he supported the bill not for any philosophical reason, such as preserving jobs for Mississippians over immigrants. Instead, he said he needed no reason beyond the vehement demand of his constituents.
Chandler called upon the “new federal government,” under President-elect Barack Obama—who drew tremendous applause at the mention of his name—to end the raids and repeal SB 2988.
Frank Curiel, vice-president of the Laborers International Union, summed up both the raids and the Mississippi law as products of racial discrimination.
“It discriminates because we don’t look like the governor; we don’t look like most of the Republicans who voted for this bill, but I tell you this much: I’m a veteran; my brothers are veterans. I grew up in a house full of veterans,” Curiel said. “We served this country. We pay more than our due, yet when times get hard, what do they do? They give us the raids.”
Curiel said whites in the Senate feared making way for the influence of a new race: “You know why they have the raids? Because they don’t want to see people like us take over this house.”
During the special session, Sen. Robert Jackson, D-Marks, offered an amendment to SB 2005 to eliminate the criminal penalties for workers, but the Senate voted down the amendment and passed SB 2005 in the slanted form that died in a House committee.