Thursday, March 17, 2011

Immigration detention as a place to sleep: Mississippi style

The Ms. Magazine Blog warns against possible misogynist effects of an anti-immigrant bill in Mississippi, SB 2179, which has passed both houses of the legislature and went to a conference committee last month for finalization.

Among the several "Arizona-style" bills designed to frighten and stifle undocumented immigrants, this one has a specially nasty little clause. It would require police to detain and check the papers of the "principal aggressor" in a domestic dispute, "defined as the party who poses the most serious ongoing threat, or who is the most significant, rather than the first, aggressor." The officer may detain more than one "aggressor" with documented reasons.

The fear at Ms. is that an immigrant woman who was in truth the victim might be detained as an "aggressor," and thence potentially deported. I know from homeless women's experiences that it's a legitimate fear. When police view a whole population as criminal, they tend not to distinguish between the abusing and abused members of a household. Also, abusers universally blame their victims for provoking attacks. The item notes that abused women are eligible for some federal protections, but there's ambiguity about "good moral character" in even the federal law, so women without papers still have reason to fear official attention.

The bill is awfully far along toward passage. Worrying.

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