JACKSON (WLOX) -- A bill that would crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants is on the way to Governor Haley Barbor's desk. On Wednesday, the House passed Senate Bill 2988, also known as the Mississippi Employment Protection Act.
The bill requires employers to make sure all new hires are eligible to work in the United States using the E-verify program. It's a free status verification system operated by the Department of Homeland Security.
If the Governor signs the legislation, all companies with 250 employees must comply or face penalties, starting in July.
Penalties include, but are not limited to, losing eligibility for state contracts and the suspension of a business license for up to one year. Smaller companies would be gradually phased in.
"This is a big step in the right direction for the Mississippi House and pride of authorship is not important," House Representative Steven Palazzo said. "The leadership is finally getting the picture that everyday Mississippians don't buy the excuse 'it's a federal issue' any longer, and that we were elected to handle the business of Mississippi."
In the bill, legislators declared they have a compelling public interest to discourage illegal immigration.
"Mississippi has spoken - get legal or go home," Palazzo said.