Immigration bill to return, Currie says

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

She’s watched it die before. She thought this session would be different. She thought a Republican majority would make it happen.

     But Becky Currie watched another bill she authored targeting illegal immigration die in committee this week despite Republican control of the Legislature.

     “I am disappointed,” said Currie, District 92’s Republican representative. “I thought this was the year.”

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     The bill Currie introduced this year passed the House after significant modifications to the original, but died Tuesday in a Senate committee.

     House Minority Leader and District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, isn’t mourning the loss. He described Currie’s legislation as a “cash burner” for the state.

     Neither was Moak surprised the bill died.

     “When you have all these law enforcement groups come out against it, you have to step back and think about that,” Moak said, citing the opposition of the Mississippi Sheriff’s Association and similar groups to the legislation.

     District 91 Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, voiced similar sentiments.

     “By the time all the disparate groups got together and made their dissatisfaction apparent, it wasn’t surprising,” Evans said of the bill’s demise.

     Currie has repeatedly introduced legislation modeled on laws in Arizona and Alabama that require local law enforcement officers to check the residency status of suspected illegal immigrants. Her legislation had died in previous sessions in which Republican controlled the Senate, but Democrats the House.

     “We never could get it out of the House,” Currie said. “Now it’s turned around and we can’t get it out of the Senate.”

     Currie said it appears Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves did not want the bill to pass, as he assigned it to a committee chaired by Hob Bryan, a Democrat from Amory. Currie said the bill could have been assigned to a more hospitable committee and expressed frustration that the House and Senate leadership have appeared at odds on some legislative issues.

     Currie pledged to introduce the legislation again in the next session.

     As local representatives looked to the coming week in the legislature, supposedly dead bills continue to loom large in the discussion.

     Moak described continuing Republican efforts to add deceased legislation into other bills that are still alive, with anti-abortion, anti-illegal immigration and charter school measures added to other bills.

     Currie herself expressed skepticism about attempts to keep the anti-illegal immigration bill alive by inserting it into legislation about counterfeit goods.

     “I don’t look for that to resuscitate it,” Curre said. “I doubt seriously it has a change of surviving.

     Evans said it’s expected that key Republican-backed bills are facing difficulty.

     “The Republicans are finding out what the Democrats having been finding out for years,” Evans said. “You may be in a numerical majority, but if it’s not a large enough majority there’s always someone with sufficient clout to put up roadblocks.”

     Evans hopes to see these dead measures finally gone for good soon so that redistricting may surface as a topic of discussion.

     “We haven’t been made privy to any maps that the Republicans have drawn,” Evans said. “That’s certainly going to be contentious. It will probably end up in court.”

     Moak doubts redistricting will come up for debate until sometime next week and admitted he hasn’t thought much about it yet. He has other things on his mind.

     “I’m busy trying to kill bad legislation,” Moak said.