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    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    Missouri Joins States' Rush to Tackle Immigration

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    Missouri Joins States' Rush to Tackle Immigration
    January 6th, 2008 @ 1:04pm
    by Associated Press

    Less than three years ago, an illegal immigrant who had worked in the governor's office gained national attention as lawmakers in Congress and Jefferson City urged immigration officials not to deport the worker, his wife and daughter.

    What a difference a few years can make.

    As lawmakers prepare for Wednesday's start of the 2008 legislative session, illegal immigration is again on the radar, but this time, state officials have created a wake in their rush to propose restrictions and penalties.

    More than a half-dozen legislators plus Gov. Matt Blunt and Attorney General Jay Nixon have filed, ordered or floated ideas to restrict illegal immigrants and those who employ them.

    ``It's an epidemic. People have kind of skirted around the issue until this year,'' said Rep. Charles Portwood, who until this session had never filed an immigration bill in his six years in the Legislature.

    Portwood said e-mails from constituents prompted him to sponsor a broad measure based on an Oklahoma law. The bill would mandate immigration status checks when people are arrested for felonies, hired by government agencies, or apply for many public benefits. It would also make it a felony to move illegal immigrants through Missouri and bar an illegal immigrant from accepting state scholarships, loans or financial assistance.

    Separate measures filed in the House and Senate would prevent illegal immigrants from wiring money overseas, bar enrollment in public colleges and junior colleges and levy tens of thousands of dollars in fines upon employers who know or ``should have known'' that they have employed an illegal immigrant.

    ``If we don't do something about it now, we're going to be really behind the curve,'' Portwood, R-Ballwin, said.

    The immigration debate has also trickled into the November 2008 governor's election.

    Blunt, a Republican, made a splash last year by ordering the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Water Patrol and Capitol Police to check the immigration status of those they arrest. He also outlined numerous other proposals targeting illegal immigrants.

    Nixon, who is campaigning against Blunt, has backed a proposal similar to an Arizona law that punishes the employers of illegal immigrants.

    All this from a state in which population estimates show relatively few people living here illegally.

    A Washington-based research group estimates using U.S. Census data that 35,000 to 65,000 illegal immigrants live in Missouri. That's somewhere between the population of Cape Girardeau and St. Charles _ and a fraction of the 12 million people that the Pew Hispanic Center estimates to be in the United States illegally.

    Suzanne Brown, a St. Louis-based immigration attorney, said that for Missouri, illegal immigrants might actually put more money into the public coffers because while they are ineligible for many public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, they pay sales taxes at the store and their landlords pay property taxes using their rent.

    Critics, however, point out that public money is used to treat illegal immigrants in emergency rooms and educate their children.

    Mounting frustration with a congressional stalemate over immigration policy has prompted states to go after the issue. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that state lawmakers in 2007 filed more than 1,500 immigration bills _ just over 200 passed, coming from all but four states. That's about three times as many bills filed and signed into law as in 2006.

    Sen. Scott Rupp, who has also filed a bill with elements borrowed from the Oklahoma law, said he would rather let Congress deal with the problem, but it's an important enough issue that someone needs to talk about it.

    The debate ``has picked up because of the federal government's inability or unwanting to act on the issue,'' said Rupp, R-Wentzville. ``The border states have been screaming about it for years. Now it's been hitting the Heartland, and we're able to provide a national security issue to it.''

    But the prospect of states trying to tackle immigration policy has prompted concerns about creating different immigration standards and requirements among states.

    ``It can't be addressed piece-by-piece by the states,'' said Brown, a leader in the Missouri/ Kansas chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. ``It's impractical and probably illegal.''

    She said state efforts to create an immigration policy waste money because they often duplicate existing federal laws or are later thrown out by courts because immigration enforcement generally is left to the federal government.

    The Missouri Chamber of Commerce said the zeal to address the issue demands caution because new requirements that are legal might not be smart. Mike Grote, vice president of governmental affairs, said it has become more challenging for companies to comply with laws that can vary significantly among states.

    ``Why would Missouri want to continue with that process?'' Grote said. ``Those states are going to see the negative impact of multistate corporations having compliance issues.''

    Grote said immigration enforcement should focus on the workers who are breaking the law and not employers who try to follow it and ``are duped by criminals.''

    ``Let's target the criminals and not the businesses that are creating jobs in our state,'' he said.


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    Senior Member azwreath's Avatar
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    Grote said immigration enforcement should focus on the workers who are breaking the law and not employers who try to follow it and ``are duped by criminals.''





    Both the IAs and the employers should be punished.

    The IAs are the ones stealing the identities, signing false statements that they are who they claim to be and are eligible to work in this country.

    And employers are the ones letting them get away with it.

    Both of them need to pay for it, and pay for it in a big way.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

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