Illegal immigration among top concerns for House, Senate, Governor



Alexandra Nicolas

Soon it may not be worth hopping the barbed wire fence around Missouri.

As one Representative said, immigration may be the “single biggest issue” for Missouri this year. Bills regarding everything from driver’s licenses to food stamps have dotted the schedules of both the House and the Senate.

Gov. Matt Blunt has taken a strong personal stance on the issue, traveling the state, including a visit to Missouri Southern in late Novem-ber, to tout the bills and the ideas be-hind them.

“Illegal immigration threatens Missouri jobs and the security of Missouri families, and we will continue fighting against this illegal activity where Washington has failed to act,” Blunt said.

Last Wednesday, the Governor applauded the House for its approval of a number of measures to combat illegal immigration. Bills included measures prohibiting sanctuary cities and requiring law enforcement to verify the immigration status of those arrested.

“I commend the Missouri House for its efforts to combat illegal immigration by passing legislation to place my directives into state law,” Blunt said.

It took little more than an hour of debate for Senate Bill 858 to slide through April 1.

“I didn’t expect to get through in an hour but I think it’s a level-headed approach that makes sense and a fair way to deal with this issue,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville.)

SB 858 includes provisions prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens and barring them from receiving state benefits.

The same bill also bans state funding from going to municipalities that have adopted sanctuary laws (Though House Bill 1398 bans sanctuary cities at the expense of state funding) and potentially heavy fines for employers who misclassify illegal employees.

Provisions barring illegal aliens from attending public universities have been put under particular scrutiny.

“This is something we went around and around about,” Rupp said. “We tried to strike a fair balance for those who are here illegally.”

In current form the ban on illegal immigrants is only effective for those not born before Aug. 28, 2008, and who have not completed three full semesters in a Missouri high school. Those opposed, like Sen. Jeff Smith (D-St. Louis) said their goal was to “make improvements and protect as many people as we can who are in a vulnerable state.”

A number of other immigration bills remain under consideration.