Op Ed
July 11, 2008

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Missouri Immigration Lawyers denounce Missouri House Bill 1549

by Angela Ferguson

The Missouri/Kansas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) strongly condemns the passage on Monday, July 7, 2008, of Missouri House Bill 1549 “Illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification,” sponsored by Representative Bob Onder (R-13).

The bill, a mean-spirited approach to changing several of the laws regarding undocumented immigrants and immigration status verification, not only duplicates several provisions of ineffective federal laws that have been in place since 1996, but also presents additional challenges to Missouri businesses and employers which will only deter growth in this time of economic uncertainty.

Among the changes signed into law are three primary sections:

  • Missouri State Highway Patrol is required to designate at least some of its officers for training with the Department of Homeland Security in order to enforce federal immigration laws — a measure which not only re-directs already limited law enforcement funding to target minor traffic violations, but also encourages racial profiling as more motorists are stopped for “Driving While Foreign” violations. Additionally, such agreements instill a mistrust of police within immigrant communities, resulting in increased victimization of immigrants, who are too afraid to report crimes.
  • Missouri municipalities are prohibited from enacting “sanctuary policies,” and are denied state funding if they are found to be in violation of this policy. The term “sanctuary policy” is ambiguously defined and a complaint of any state resident can initiate an investigation, which is ultimately decided by the attorney general’s opinion. The lack of guidelines coupled with the consequence of withheld state funding make this policy potentially disastrous for municipalities across the state.
  • Participation in the federal work authorization program E-Verify is required for a broad spectrum of employers, which is the latest in a growing patchwork of state immigration laws employers are forced to navigate. Many fear that the growing number of regulatory burdens imposed by state laws will drive many businesses to relocate, and deter new businesses from operating in Missouri. In addition to the added cost of an E-Verify system are the headaches associated with a system that is still very flawed (a recent Immigration Policy Center report cited a 4.1% error rate in the system), and whose flaws have already affected immigrant workers and U.S. Citizens alike.

While the chapter strongly agrees that the federal government has failed to address fundamental, structural problems with the country’s broken immigration system, the chapter also believes that bills such as HB 1549 do not adequately deal with Congress’ failures to provide options for employers to hire legal workers or to keep families together because an “enforcement-only” approach is not a viable solution. The chapter urges both the Missouri State Legislature and the U.S. Congress to abandon the politics of the issue and come up with a fair, practical solution to our immigration crisis that requires undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and contribute to the American economy and society.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. The Missouri/Kansas Chapter is one of the association’s 36 chapters. For more information call Missouri/Kansas Chapter Chair Suzanne Brown at 314.995.3932 ext.102 or Angela Ferguson at 816.356.7100.


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