WASHINGTON, D.C.–Earlier this week Gov. Bryant wrote a letter to Pres. Obama requesting that his office be informed if the federal government planned to house significant numbers of illegal immigrant children in the state, saying he would resist it on the grounds that Mississippi cannot afford it. Wednesday, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D) wrote Obama a letter that countered that viewpoint.
Thompson said that he endorsed housing children in the state, and would be willing to help “facilitate partnerships” between the federal government and local facilities. He said in the letter that he has spoken to a number of “directors of facilities” in the state who have stated that they have space available and they have expressed willingness to house and care for the aliens.
Thompson said he has been to some of the countries from which the children came, and he believes some might have a legitimate claim for political asylum.
“I would note that a large percentage of these children, some who have been exploited by human smugglers and criminal gangs, likely have actionable asylum claims,” he said in the letter.
Thompson also said in the letter that “on this matter, Gov. Bryant does not speak for all Mississippians”.
Thompson invoked the state’s moniker “The Hospitality State”.
“We have a moral obligation to treat children fleeing from unspeakable violence and danger with care and respect and to ensure they are in a safe environment while in this country….Time will tell how long this crisis persists, but we have a moral obligation as Americans and as decent human beings to do the right by the kids that have, against the odds, reached our border. Many Mississippians agree on this – you can count me among them.”
Thompson also said he believes that Gov. Bryant’s religious beliefs should move him in a different direction.
“Over the years I have heard Gov. espouse how his Christian beliefs inform the positions he takes as a public figure. As a Christian who is a product of a similar religious tradition…I have great difficulty in understanding the position he is taking with respect to the treatment of these children in this humanitarian crisis. After all, Jesus was a child migrant who fled to Egypt to avoid violence and persecutions, and spent his life assisting newcomers, the less fortunate, and others marginalized by society.”
Bryant said in his letter, dated Friday, that he intends to prevent the federal government from detaining large numbers of the immigrants in Mississippi.
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That letter, rather than taking a religious approach, cited federal law and how Bryant believes it is not being enforced properly.
The letter clearly blames the president for the current crisis, stating that Obama failed to enforce immigration laws, starting in 2012, and reminded the president that Bryant joined a lawsuit, which was dismissed on technical grounds, in which a federal judge ruled that Obama violated federal laws.
“Like many governors, my office must monitor rumors about the transport and housing of illegal immigrants because your administration apparently prefers to conduct these acts under cloak of secrecy, rather than in consultation with the states, which have the right to monitor and secure their own borders. With that said, I request that your administration and its agents immediately notify my office of any plans to transport or house illegal immigrants in the State of Mississippi,” read the letter.
The Miss. Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) planned a Thursday press conference to discuss the matter.