Legal decision by Gov. Bryant causes debate - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Legal decision by Gov. Bryant causes debate

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Mississippi is now part of a courtroom battle against the federal government. That's because of a lawsuit Gov. Phil Bryant added the state's name to.

It claims an executive order from the President, granting work permits and a two-year period for certain illegal immigrants not to be deported, violates federal law.

"We're just saying the President does not have the authority to order us not to do our constitutional duty," Bryant said.

To be protected under the order, immigrants must be younger than 31 and have been brought to the U.S. illegally before the age of 16. They must also be in school or the military and have no felonies.

"It gives them a chance to work, to pay taxes. It doesn't give them a road to citizenship. It's a temporary stop gap measure," said Mississippi ACLU legal director Bear Atwood.

Atwood doesn't expect the lawsuit will succeed and says she was surprised when Bryant added Mississippi to the plaintiff list.

"This lawsuit and the governor joining it is about sending a political message that he's going to be strong on deporting immigrants. I believe it's just for show and it's mean spirited just for show," Atwood said.

The lawsuit also claims the order forces immigration employees to break the law by not arresting certain illegal immigrants. Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform and Enforcement president, Rodney Hunt stands by the governor's decision and says he's not opposed to legal immigration, but is opposed to granting benefits to illegal immigrants.

"This is the first step in making these people citizens. The next step, they'll say they've been here for several years, we've given them an opportunity to work and now we want to make them citizens," Hunt said.

By joining the suit, Atwood says the state is sending the wrong message.

"It sends a chilling effect to every immigrant across the country, don't come to Mississippi, you're not welcome here," Atwood said.

Hunt says if legal procedures are followed, everyone is welcome and contends the lawsuit is a constitutional issue.

"What President Obama has done, he's bypassed Congress' authority that given to them under the Constitution to establish immigration law," Hunt said.

Mississippi's representation in this lawsuit will come at no cost to the state. Attorneys out of Texas representing the group of federal immigration workers who filed the suit will take on the task.

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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