ICE Raid - Photo Credit: The Clarion Ledger

Immigration

Mississippi consists of many communities that draw and depend on a growing immigrant population. It is one of the thirteen states with the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants. The Pew Research Center found in 2016 that 35%—some 20,000 of Mississippi’s nearly 60,000 immigrants—reside in the state without documentation.

Mississippi immigrants face challenges unique to the rural south. As described in a disturbing Topic Magazine article, one recently retired immigration judge who presides over Mississippi cases boasts an unrivaled 100% asylum denial rate.

ICE agents execute unlawful raids and enforcement actions throughout the state by exercising excessive force and stripping individuals of their rights. A recently enacted state law prohibits local jurisdictions from hindering federal immigration enforcement targeting undocumented immigrants in local and state jails.

Police departments conduct routine license checks and immigration checkpoints on roads between rural immigrant communities and their workplaces and places of worship.

In schools, students often receive little or no English language learning support and are instead often coupled with other immigrant students to serve as each other’s translators.

Parents without work authorization lack support from school districts on filing taxes or completing the FAFSA, leaving their U.S. citizen children without the tools to seek higher education. Upon graduation from high school, Mississippi’s undocumented and DACA-mented youth are refused admission to community colleges throughout the state. Community colleges, in an even more brazenly anti-immigrant policy, refuse in-state tuition rates to U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents.

Compounding all of the above, there is very little legal help available for immigrants in Mississippi and scant integration of services for the immigrant population.

The Mississippi Center for Justice’s Immigration team works to:

  • Organize a coalition of state and regional immigrant rights groups to combine resources and expertise to advocate for policy changes;
  • Recruit, train and support the state’s fledgling network of pro bono attorneys handling immigration matters, expanding outreach and offering additional training sessions and mentoring;
  • Coordinate pro bono effort of volunteer attorneys and interpreters to provide outreach and legal representation at the Tallahatchie County and Adams County Detention Facilities;
  • Conduct life-saving “know your rights” workshops for immigrants as well as “Immigration 101” classes for receiving communities to dispel myths and stereotypes; and
  • Provide direct legal services to Mississippi immigrant clients, particularly asylum-seekers, and challenge oppressive asylum policies and decisions through appeals.

Recent News
MCJ Responds to Immigration Crisis in Mississippi

On August 7, 2019, 650 federal agents raided six Mississippi communities, arresting 680 of our friends and neighbors in Morton, Canton, Carthage, Pelahatchie, Bay Springs, and Walnut Grove.  Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers were loaded onto buses in plastic handcuffs while children, with their new backpacks and school supplies, returned from their first day of school, only to find their loved ones gone.  These raids irreversibly harmed families, schools, communities, and our state. Read more about our response here.