JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers are looking to tighten immigration laws in the state by requiring employers to check every new employee’s immigration status against a federal database.
The legislation, proposed by Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-O’Fallon, would put the onus on Missouri businesses to use the E-Verify system, operated by the Department of Homeland Security, or risk losing their business license altogether.
At a hearing of the House Immigration Committee on Wednesday evening, the bill’s witnesses faced stiff questioning from House Democrats, including a representative who questioned the economic impact of bills that could dry up employment opportunities for illegal immigrants.
“I’m looking at my city with the for-rent signs and the for-sale signs, and I really would like people to live in those areas,” said Rep. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County. “I don’t care if they’re legal or not; I just want them to pay their bills.”
Kris Kobach, a professor of law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who testified at the meeting, supports the bill and said it is mirrored after a bill that became law in Arizona. He characterized that bill’s immediate effect as “astonishing.”
“No one has been prosecuted under the law, not one single enforcement action was taken, but as soon as the law went on the books, on January 1st, there was a mass exodus of illegal aliens from Arizona,” Kobach said.
Other stated goals of Schneider’s bill, Kobach said, are restricting public benefits for illegal immigrants and addressing “sanctuary cities,” or cities he said he thinks follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when it comes to immigration.
Kobach included in his testimony a characterization of Kansas City as a “sanctuary city,” which set off a disagreement with another member on the committee, Rep. Timothy Flook, R-Liberty. Flook said the primary concern of law enforcement should be to investigate crimes, not to check legal statuses.
Kobach said he estimated Missouri’s illegal immigrant population at 65,000 and the cost of social services provided to them at $116 million, with $88 million supporting K-12 students.