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In a remarkable development, a harsh immigration enforcement bill1 that passed the Mississippi House of Representatives on March 15 with strong support from Governor Phil Bryant and Mississippi Tea Party members died in a Senate Judiciary Committee on April 3, 2012. To better understand how Mississippi arrived at this potentially historic juncture, I interviewed individuals who helped to shape the coalition of new voices.
At the February 29, 2012, Fr. Fred Kammer, SJ, addressed the participants at the Second Annual Catholic Day at the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, gathered to oppose anti-immigrant bills pending in the Mississippi legislature.
On August 25, 2008, the small town of Laurel, Mississippi was the site of the largest single workplace site raid in U.S. history. Early that morning hundreds of Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) agents swooped down on the Howard Industries plant in Laurel, which produces electric transformers, and began rounding up workers. Anyone who appeared to be of Hispanic origin was separated from other workers and escorted outside to a fenced yard. In the midst of such terror, a small Catholic church became the center of solace and assistance.
As the U.S. is the global leader in incarceration, so Mississippi is a national leader. Mississippi has the second highest rate of incarceration in the nation, second only to Louisiana. Mississippi incarcerates its citizens at a rate of 735 per 100,000 population. The Sentencing Project reports that since 1988, the number of persons imprisoned in Mississippi has increased by 208 percent, from 7,384 to 22,754. The national growth rate during the same period is 133 percent. 
Pending bill continues debt trap for low-income borrowers
On January 11, 2011, a coalition of Mississippi’s religious and social justice leaders called Mississippians and the state legislature to end predatory payday lending. As the Mississippi House Banking Committee unanimously passed a bill that would extend predatory lending in Mississippi, Bishop Hope Morgan of the United Methodist Church reflected: “I come to bring good news to the poor—572 percent is not good news to the poor. The poor are being entrapped. We are better people than this.