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.


Top five immigration stories of 2011, #1: The battle in the states

Photo by TK/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A year ago, when Multi-American was counting down the top five immigration stories of 2010, topping the list with Arizona's game-changing SB 1070 was a no-brainer. Not necessarily because news of the 2010 anti-illegal immigration law dominated immigration coverage last year, but because of the lasting impact the law was bound to have on other states. I wrote then:
What continues to make SB 1070 such an important story are its ramifications beyond Arizona, which will be playing out in the years to come. Even with some of its provisions still hung up in appeals court by the pending federal challenge, SB 1070 has emboldened conservative state legislators around the country to draft their own versions of the law, some just as strict or more so than the original.

A year later, SB 1070-inspired immigration enforcement bills have made their way through statehouses around the country. Similarly strict laws have taken effect in states like Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina.


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.


Colbert on Alabama and the farm jobs 'Americans would like to do' (Video)

In case you missed last night's The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert provided his comic take on the farm labor-immigration crisis in Alabama, where many immigrant workers have walked off the job and left the state in the wake of a stringent anti-illegal immigration law.

Attempts to replace them with native-born American workers down on their luck haven't worked out, with farmers complaining that they aren't up to doing the backbreaking work of harvesting crops like hard-to-pick tomatoes. Colbert's take: That the immigrant workers were "stealing yet another thing that Americans would like to do."

"All Alabama was trying to do was free up those farm jobs that 'los ilegales' were taking from Americans," he quips. There's also a clip from his Congressional testimony last year.


The Alabama ruling, SB 1070 and the Supreme Court: What's next?

Photo by OZinOH/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The U.S. Supreme Court Building, May 2006

As it begins its new term today, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to consider an appeal from the state of Arizona on SB 1070, the controversial 2010 anti-illegal immigration law that has since spurred copycat laws throughout the United States - but whose key provisions remain blocked by a federal judge's ruling in July of last year.

Among those provisions is one that would allow local police to check for immigration status if there is "reasonable suspicion" that people they encounter while conducting their work could be in the country illegally. But while this component of the law hasn't gone into effect in Arizona, it was just allowed in Alabama by a federal judge in Birmingham last week, who issued a contradictory ruling when considering an even stricter post-SB 1070 immigration crackdown measure in that state.