2014 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) McDaniel, Watson, Sojourner
AN ACT TO REQUIRE STATE AGENCIES AND POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS TO VERIFY THE LAWFUL PRESENCE IN THE UNITED STATES OF ANY PERSON WHO APPLIES FOR STATE, LOCAL OR FEDERAL PUBLIC BENEFITS; TO PROVIDE FOR CERTAIN EXCEPTIONS TO THIS REQUIREMENT FOR VERIFICATION; TO PROVIDE THAT APPLICANTS FOR PUBLIC BENEFITS MUST EXECUTE AN AFFIDAVIT THAT HE OR SHE IS A UNITED STATES CITIZEN OR IS A QUALIFIED ALIEN UNDER FEDERAL LAW AND IS LAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES; TO PROVIDE FOR A CRIMINAL PENALTY FOR WILLFULLY MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT OF REPRESENTATION IN THE AFFIDAVIT REQUIRED BY THIS ACT; TO REQUIRE EACH STATE AGENCY AND POLITICAL SUBDIVISION THAT ADMINISTERS ANY PROGRAM OF STATE OR LOCAL PUBLIC BENEFITS TO PROVIDE AN ANNUAL REPORT TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL WITH RESPECT TO ITS COMPLIANCE WITH THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The Legislature finds that when illegal immigrants have been sheltered and harbored in this state and encouraged to reside in this state through the benefit of work without verifying immigration status, these practices impede and obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration law, undermine the security of our borders, and impermissibly restrict the privileges and immunities of the citizens of Mississippi. The Legislature further finds that illegal immigration is encouraged when public agencies within this state provide public benefits without verifying immigration status. Therefore, the Legislature declares that it is a compelling public interest of this state to discourage illegal immigration by requiring all agencies within this state to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The Legislature also finds that other measures are necessary to ensure the integrity of various governmental programs and services.
SECTION 2. (1) Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section or where exempted by federal law, every agency and political subdivision of this state shall verify the lawful presence in the United States of any natural person fourteen (14) years of age or older who applies for state or local public benefits, as defined in 8 USCS Section 1621, or for federal public benefits, as defined in 8 USCS Section 1611, that is administered by an agency or a political subdivision of this state.
(2) This section shall be enforced without regard to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, or national origin.
(3) Verification of lawful presence under this section shall not be required:
(a) For any purpose for which lawful presence in the United States is not restricted by law, ordinance, or regulation;
(b) For assistance for health care items and services that are necessary for the treatment of an emergency medical condition, as defined in 42 USCS Section 1396b(v)(3), of the person involved and are not related to an organ transplant procedure;
(c) For short-term, noncash, in-kind emergency disaster relief;
(d) For public health assistance for immunizations with respect to immunizable diseases and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases, whether or not those symptoms are caused by a communicable disease; or
(e) For programs, services, or assistance such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter specified by the United States Attorney General, that:
(i) Deliver in-kind services at the community level, including through public or private nonprofit agencies;
(ii) Do not condition the provision of assistance, the amount of assistance provided, or the cost of assistance provided on the individual recipient's income or resources; and
(iii) Are necessary for the protection of life or safety.
(4) Verification of lawful presence in the United States by the agency or political subdivision required to make that verification shall be done as follows: The applicant must execute an affidavit under penalty of perjury that:
(a) He or she is a United States citizen; or
(b) He or she is a qualified alien under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, and is lawfully present in the United States.
(5) For any applicant who has executed the affidavit described in subsection (4)(b) of this section, eligibility for benefits shall be made through the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement (SAVE) program operated by the United States Department of Homeland Security or a successor program designated by the United States Department of Homeland Security. Until the eligibility verification is made, the affidavit may be presumed to be proof of lawful presence for the purposes of this section.
(6) Any person who knowingly and willfully makes a false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement of representation in an affidavit executed under subsection (4) of this section shall be guilty of a violation of Section 97-7-10. If the affidavit constitutes a false claim of United States citizenship under 18 USCS Section 911, a complaint shall be filed by the agency or political subdivision requiring the affidavit with the United States Attorney for the Northern District or Southern District of Mississippi, as appropriate.
(7) Agencies or political subdivisions of this state may by regulation adopt variations to the requirements of this section that demonstrably improve the reliability of the verification process, or to provide for adjudication of unique individual circumstances where the verification procedures in this section would impose unusual hardship on a legal resident of Mississippi.
(8) It shall be unlawful for any agency or a political subdivision of this state to provide any state, local, or federal benefit, as defined in 8 USCS Section 1621 or 8 USCS Section 1611, in violation of this section.
(9) Each state agency or department which administers any program of state or local public benefits shall provide an annual report to the Attorney General with respect to its compliance with this section. The Attorney General shall report any and all errors to the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Attorney General shall monitor SAVE and shall provide an annual public report on the incidence of errors and significant delays, and may make recommendations in that report to ensure that the application of SAVE is not erroneously denying benefits to legal residents of Mississippi.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2014.