Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Soon, the Jackson City Council Planning Committee is bringing a proposed ordinance before full council to restrict city police from inquiring about citizenship status during interdictions. The ordinance is designed to encourage members of the city's immigrant population to more quickly come forward with information to help police do their job.
The ordinance gives immigrants one less reason not to approach police to report a crime against them, including aggravated assault or robbery. Mississippi Immigrants Rights Executive Director Bill Chandler said at a council hearing last week that immigrants' fear of police makes them an easy target for robbery. After all, you don't want that robbery to eventually result in you losing your job, your rent and your family stability, so you might not report it.
The move sets the city of Jackson apart from much of the rest of the state in terms of immigrant tolerance. Anti-immigrant parties are beating the drum for isolationism in large white communities, such as Madison—whining that immigrants are taking away valuable jobs and government services, without mentioning the benefit of the sales taxes they pay and unclaimed FICA payments.
White state representatives, including Brookhaven Republican Becky Currie, plan to submit copycat legislation during the next legislative session to mimic Arizona's infamous anti-immigrant law and require police to determine the residential status of people during traffic stops.
Other big cities in largely conservative southern states are making moves similar to Jackson. In July, Birmingham Mayor William Bell issued a proclamation declaring Birmingham a city that is "welcome to all," and that the city would "reject any policies that divide our community," in a direct response to the Arizona law. Bell issued his proclamation even as Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed a July 14 brief asking a federal district court to dismiss the U.S. Justice Department's challenge of the Arizona law.
With all the anti-immigrant hooey politicians are throwing around, it apparently falls to a major metropolis to recognize that we are a country composed primarily of immigrants, and we do not want to return to hateful policies of our too-recent past in the South.
Immigrant intolerance was just as much an issue in the 1800s, when the country scrabbled to lock out those hard-drinking Irish "tater-heads" and their willingness to pay $1.50 to cram their drunken Irish families into a single 11-by-nine-foot room with no water or sanitation. We got over it. We'll get over this too, but—like then—and it's up to progressive places like the city of Jackson to lead the way, just as major cities blazed the right trail in the past.
When the new city ordinance comes up for a vote, vote for it. It's good.