Missouri's new immigration law hopelessly flawed

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | 2:01 p.m. CDT; updated 2:09 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 The federal government has continually failed to address fundamental, structural problems with the country's broken immigration system.

Missouri's leadership hasn't done us any favors either by approving the Illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification law. This law does 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.

There are three main problems with the new law.

First, the Missouri State Highway Patrol will now be 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 redirects 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 already too afraid to report many crimes or to come forward as witnesses to others.

Second, 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.

Finally, participation in the federal work authorization program E-Verify is required for a broad spectrum of employers. E-Verify is a result of 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 existing 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. Missouri is now one of only five states mandating the use of E-Verify (proposals are pending in 13 other states) even though a recent Immigration Policy Center report cited a 4.1 percent error rate in the system. Although these errors can and do affect immigrant workers, many of them involve U.S. citizens. All of them are unacceptable if they keep lawfully authorized immigrants or citizens from working.

The Illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification law changed several laws regarding undocumented immigrants and immigration status verification and duplicates several provisions of ineffective federal laws that have already been in place since 1996. It also presents additional challenges to businesses and employers, which will only deter growth in this time of economic uncertainty.

Missouri's new illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification law is a mean-spirited and hopelessly flawed approach to immigration reform. The state and federal government must disregard the politics of the issue and come up with a fair and practical solution to our immigration crisis that requires undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and contribute to the American economy and society if they so choose.

Suzanne Brown is the Missouri/Kansas chapter chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.


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Jose Gonzalez April 9, 2009 | 7:43 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with your column "Missouri's new immigration law hopelessly flawed". Definately the implementation of this new law "E-Verify" has not been communicated clearly to the different offices and State departments. The proceedure should be the same accross the board. I am a legal alien and have resided as a temporary resident in the U.S. for over 15yrs. I have obtained driver licenses in states such as Utah and Illinois with no problem, but upon moving to the state of Missouri and applying for a MO driver license, I have been subject to much discrimination. As a result of this inconsistant communication with state government offices my economic stability and the welfare of my family is in jeopardy. I have complied with everything Homeland Security requires but due to the incompetence of the staff at local state government offices, I feel like I have chosen the wrong state to call my home.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 9, 2009 | 10:10 p.m.

What kind of "discrimination?"
What have THEY done to jeopardize your economic stability and the welfare of your family?
Do you understand the questions I am typing for you to answer?

(Report Comment)
Robert Misemer October 14, 2010 | 9:04 a.m.

I believe that you are being Paranoid and jumping to collusions concerning your so called plight.
Going from State to State and now trying to get setup for
I hope is your final destination, you have to be patient with State Employees because they see a lot of people every day and each one is different. I lived in Missouri for 39 years and now live in Yuma, AZ and when I moved here, I had to go through the proceedure of what you are going through except I am not playing the "Race Card".
No State Official or Officials is going to give you a rough time because you consider yourself an Immigrant after 15 yrs. Relax because you are in the USA legally.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 14, 2010 | 9:51 a.m.

Drivers licenses are the prerogative of individual states. It's been years since I've needed to obtain a drivers license other than renewals, but years ago Missouri did not have reciprocity with other states, meaning that when you came here with a driver's license from another state you had to take both a written and actual driver's test.

Some states accept out-of-state licenses and grant a license without any testing. There are, or used to be, some states that made you take the written test but no actual driving test. I think taking a written test has some value, as traffic laws are not the same in all states.

If any of that is "discrimination" then we are ALL being discriminated against. Pardon me, for I must find a towel. My back is wet!

(Report Comment)

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