Joe Nosef, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, says one of his priorities this year is to diversify membership in the GOP, which is overwhelmingly white in the state. One of his challenges is overcoming the impact of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the party’s most conservative wing.
“We certainly have people on the margins who use inflammatory language, and it makes Hispanic voters think they are not welcome in the Republican Party,” says Nosef. “We need to change that.”
In Jackson, black leaders have created a strong alliance with immigrant rights groups. The Mississippi branch of the NAACP, labor unions, and African-American churches have framed the fight as a civil rights issue, persuading black auto factory workers and poultry workers that immigrants are not taking their jobs.
Rep. Jim Evans, an African-American Democrat from Jackson, is one of the biggest allies of immigrants in Mississippi. He is board president of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance and has helped get the Legislative Black Caucus behind the issue.