Missouri may join the list of states with their own immigration laws that rival the federal government’s traditional enforcement role. A bill introduced in the Missouri Legislature by Republican State Senator Will Kraus would require state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone stopped by police with reasonable cause. The law would also make it a misdemeanor not to carry documentation of citizenship. These provisions are similar to the laws passed in Arizona and Alabama. The Missouri bill would also require school officials to verify students’ immigration status. This has led to much criticism that the law would damage education and cause extensive racial profiling and harassment of children.
Laws currently on the books in Arizona and Alabama also make state and local law enforcement responsible for checking immigration statuses if they have reasonable suspicion that a person may not have legal status. Since immigration status is determined based on federal law, and immigration laws are principally enforced by federal agencies, this has created a conflict between state and federal law enforcement. Local police may not have the particular training and expertise to enforce federal immigration laws and regulations. Immigration regulations change on a regular basis. The state laws have also raised concerns that local police will engage in racial profiling, targeting individuals who, in essence, do not look “American.”
Missouri’s proposed law would add another layer to the confusion by putting school administrators and perhaps even teachers in the middle of the fray. Many immigrants and immigration attorneys know that immigration status is often not as simple as having a card or piece of paper. Federal law provides a vast number of forms of legal immigration status, and people who do not deal primarily with these issues may not know all of the available options.
Senator Kraus has stated that his bill was motivated by an effort to determine what “illegal immigration” costs the state, and whether Missouri could claim reimbursement from the federal government for its efforts in enforcing immigration law. He says that the bill would require the state’s Board of Education to collect data and determine the cost to the state of educating undocumented immigrants. This is of course different from the cost of immigration enforcement. The United States Supreme Court has long held that children, regardless of immigration status, have a right to an education through the public school system. States have contributed to the cost of immigration enforcement in some ways. Cook County, Illinois, for example, recently addressed the issue of the cost of local cooperation with immigration detainers sent by federal officials, a story we covered in this immigration blog.
Immigration enforcement is primarily the responsibility of the federal Department of Homeland Security, whose various agencies handle processing applications for immigration benefits and enforcing immigration laws and regulations. Efforts by state governments to step into this process may have significant and unforeseeable consequences both for immigrants and citizens.
The United States immigration system is often complicated and confusing. For a free and confidential consultation with a skilled and experienced Ohio immigration visa lawyer, contact Gus Shihab online or at (800) 625-3404 today.More Blog Posts
State Police Board Drops Immigration Screening Program in County Jails, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, January 27, 2012
After Review of Pending Deportation Cases, One in Six Get a Reprieve, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, January 26, 2012
Controversial Arizona Sheriff Stripped of Authority to Conduct Immigration Screening, Immigration Visa Lawyer Blog, January 11, 2012