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.


Alabama, So. Carolina lead nation in Latino population increase - and strict immigration laws

Photo by Maurice Michael/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The states with two of the nation's most restrictive new anti-illegal immigration laws also happen to be the two states that saw the biggest jump in their Latino population during the last decade.

Alabama saw a 145 percent increase in its Latino population between 2000 an 2010, according to census data, the second highest Latino growth rate in the nation. Its HB 56 immigration law, which remains partially blocked but has still caused a rash of school absences and a labor crisis in the fields as Latino workers flee the state, contains more restrictive provisions than Arizona's controversial SB 1070 on which it is modeled.

South Carolina, just sued by the federal government over its new SB 1070-inspired law allowing police to check for immigration status, saw the nation's biggest percent jump in Latino population growth: 148 percent. And Georgia, where an anti-illegal immigration law known as HB 87 was partially blocked in court over the summer but still caused a labor crisis, is not far behind. That state saw its Latino population grow 96 percent between 2000 and 2010.