The last time Republicans had control of both chambers of the state legislature in Mississippi was over 140 years ago. Back then, they seized the moment to fight for the abolition of slavery. How sad that those principles have been replaced in the 21st Century with a zeal to persecute the undocumented.
The last November election was historic for the state’s GOP. It enabled them to aggressively move on an agenda that includes the Mississippi Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act (HR488)which, similar to neighboring southern states, harasses the undocumented under legally suspect measures which courts have been have been throwing out as unconstitutional.
Last year, the GOP put forward 33 proposed laws with the purpose of making the lives of the undocumented and those in contact with them as difficult as possible. Fortunately these bills have been thrown out by African-American lawmakers who have come to the defense of Latinos. In this particular state, the joining together of these two minority communities is something to emulate.
The defeat of Democrats in the lower house opened the way for passage of HB 488 which now moves on to the Senate and then to the governor, who has already promised to sign it into law.
Mississippi’s Latino community is less than 3% of the state’s population, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the scapegoat for the anxieties of the dominant White majority. Some of the concerns are founded in the economy, others in politics. Thirty-seven percent of the electorate is African-American, the largest percent of any Southern state, and its strength is expected to increase with the growth in the Latino vote.
It is impossible not to also recognize the long history of racial prejudice in Mississippi. This is always in the air. It is worthwhile to make note that this is the only state in the South that incorporates the Confederate flag in its current state seal.
The last time the Republicans controlled the state was during Reconstruction, when the GOP was the party of Abraham Lincoln. Today it is the party of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and although unpleasant to accept, also the party of Rush Limbaugh. The talk-show host won this party affiliation long before the presidential candidates.
What a shame for Latinos, for the GOP, and for the state of Mississippi.