Missouri’s 48th District
Lee’s Summit – I applaud immigrants who have made the effort to enter and reside in the U.S. legally. They will continue to contribute to making this a great country. However, the lack of secure U.S. borders has created a huge problem of illegal entry and illegal activity, particularly in border states such as Arizona. After the passage of Arizona’s law to address illegal immigration, I have received a number of inquiries asking if the state of Missouri would enact the same law.
In 2008, Missouri took the lead in addressing illegal immigration by passing HB 1549. It was considered one of the toughest pieces of immigration legislation in the country. While opponents of this law questioned its legality, none of the legislation has been successfully challenged in court or overturned because of issues of constitutionality.
The legislation curbed policies that make a state more attractive to illegal aliens. For example, some cities in other states, such as San Francisco, have become “sanctuary” cities and have adopted various policies to protect illegal immigrants. Because of HB 1549, any county, city, town, or village is prohibited from enacting a sanctuary policy in Missouri. If a sanctuary policy were enacted, the local authority would be ineligible for state grants until the policy is repealed or is no longer in effect.
Another provision prohibits the state from issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens and persons who cannot prove lawful presence in the United States, which also makes Missouri a less attractive state for illegal residence. In addition, Missouri will not recognize driver’s licenses issued to illegal immigrants by another state.
While Missouri’s laws do not make illegal immigration a state crime, they do encourage full cooperation with the federal government in apprehending illegal immigrants. An arresting law enforcement agency is required within 48 hours to verify the lawful immigration status of a person charged with a crime and held in confinement. Upon verification that the prisoner is an illegal alien, the arresting agency must notify the federal government.
Many people believe it to be unfair to American taxpayers to support and encourage illegal immigration by extending benefit programs for our citizens to those who have chosen not to abide by our immigration laws. The General Assembly also addressed this concern. HB 1549 prohibits the state from extending state or local public benefit programs (unless offered under certain federal laws) to individuals who cannot document that they are in this country legally.
In the 2009 session, the General Assembly also passed HB 390. This law prohibits college or university students who are unlawfully present in the United States from receiving state financial aid.
A number of provisions directly address the employment of illegal aliens. If businesses incur penalties for employing illegals, then the jobs that draw many of these individuals into our country will not be available to them, thus ending a major reason for illegal entry.
Because of HB 1549, employers are prohibited from knowingly hiring or continuing to employ illegal aliens in Missouri. If any business participates in a state-sponsored benefit, then it is required to verify employee immigration status within 15 days of being employed. Penalties, up to permanent suspension of applicable local licenses, permits and exemptions, are in place for knowingly employing an illegal alien.
The United States of America offers tremendous benefits to those who live here legally. We enjoy a standard of living and degree of freedom that make this country a magnet to the world’s population. The United States government has set up a legal path to citizenship. I’m all for it and welcome legal immigration. But we cannot tolerate illegal activity, and we, the state of Missouri, have backed up that statement by enacting tough legislation.