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Columbia Missourian

Anti-illegal immigration group makes push for Senate bill

By MELISSA HUFFER
May 8, 2008 | 7:24 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An anti-illegal immigration group is advertising in newspapers across Missouri to support a Senate bill, which among other things would ban illegal immigrants from higher education and jobs.

With the 94th session of the Missouri Legislature coming to a close next week, Missourians Against Illegal Immigration has placed advertisements in newspapers in Columbia and St. Charles. The advertisements read “Save Missouri Lives, Save Missouri Jobs, Save Missouri Tax Dollars.”

The bill, SB 858, would crack down on illegal immigration by banning illegal immigrants from higher education and barring employers from hiring workers who cannot prove the validity of their status in the United States.

The bill has been referred to the Rules Committee and has not budged since Monday.

“Anything is possible, but it is highly unlikely that this bill will make it through by next Friday,” said Tom Pauley, an aide for Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia.

Despite the little time left, the founder of Missourians Against Illegal Immigration, Janet Renner, is hopeful the bill will pass.

“We are doing anything in our power to let the legislators know that Missourians across the state want relief on illegal immigration for all the reasons that are in the bill,” Renner said. “We don’t want our (tax) money going to illegal aliens.”

Renner’s group is a grass-roots organization, and Renner also serves as state advisor to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) organization, which “seeks to improve border security, stop illegal immigration and promote immigration levels consistent with the national interest,” according to FAIR’s Web site.

FAIR was labeled an active U.S. hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to the center’s Web site.

Missourians Against Illegal Immigration was started in 2006 and has since gained members in about 90 Missouri cities, Renner said.

She said the group’s main goal is to inform the public about illegal immigration.

The group’s Web site includes assertions that illegal immigrants bring problems to the country, including the spread of diseases like leprosy and malaria.

She said the information is based on her inner beliefs and what she believes is “common sense.”

Renner started the organization after attending a conference in Las Vegas sponsored by Mark Edwards, founder of The Wake Up America Foundation. The group focuses on watching illegal immigration on the U.S. border, according to the Wake Up America Web site.

“I did not know that our immigration laws were not being enforced by our federal government,” Renner said.

While Missourians Against Illegal Immigration is focused on passing the bill, other organizations are not on the same page. One such group is the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, an umbrella organization formed to promote immigrants’ rights. Joan Suarez, chair of the group, said she does not believe Renner’s group will really affect the outcome.

“They are a group with relatively little sway,” Suarez said. “If anything, they are citizen lobbyists.”