How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'Where's your green card?' Mississippi becomes latest immigration battleground state

Yet another Arizona-style immigration bill is moving forward in the South, this time in Mississippi, where members of of the state House approved a strict anti-illegal immigration bill early Thursday. And within hours, at a college basketball tournament game between the University of Southern Mississippi and Kansas State yesterday, members of the Southern Miss Band were chanting "Where's your green card?" at a Puerto Rican-born player from the other team.

Never mind that Puerto Ricans don't need green cards, since they are automatically U.S. citizens at birth. The exchange, by now widely reported, highlights the tension surrounding immigration that's been brewing in Mississippi and surrounding states, including neighboring Alabama, which enacted a similar law in September.

Earlier this month, a Southern Poverty Law Center report that tracked calls to a hotline set up after the Alabama law took effect suggested rising discrimination against Latinos, including taunts of "go back to Mexico" hurled at U.S. citizens. One citizen complained of being asked to provide “American” identification at a store while making a purchase.

The incident took place during a NCAA tournament game when the Kansas State player, Angel Rodriguez, was about to take a free throw. An NPR piece from last night links to a tweet from a sports reporter who called out the band members after witnessing the chanting.

The Mississippi bill is expected to clear the Senate, according to news reports. It's slightly more lenient than the Alabama law in that a provision that would have required schools to track students' immigration status was struck before the passing vote. Alabama's law, considered the nation's strictest, passed with a similar provision that has been temporarily blocked in court.

Called the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act," the Mississippi bill includes provisions similar to Arizona's SB 1070, like empowering police to check for immigration status. CNN reports that it also proposes a ban on "business transactions" with undocumented immigrants, such as renewing a driver's license and getting a business license. If it becomes law Mississippi would become one of four contiguous Southern states - along with Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina - with similarly strict anti-illegal immigration measures.

As for the green card chant, University of Southern Mississippi's president has issued this apology statement:

"We deeply regret the remarks made by a few students at today’s game. The words of these individuals do not represent the sentiments of our pep band, athletic department or university. We apologize to Mr. Rodriguez and will take quick and appropriate disciplinary action against the students involved in this isolated incident."
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