In a sweeping proposal to address illegal immigration in Missouri, Sen. Chris Koster Tuesday filed a bill targeting employers who hire illegal workers and landlords who give them shelter.
The Harrisonville Republican’s measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Tim Green, a Democrat from St. Louis County, came as immigrant rights groups gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to denounce legislation they said was discriminatory.
Koster said he had carefully crafted the bill in an attempt to ward off any court challenges, which have felled legislation in other states aimed at curbing illegal immigration. The measure would affect employment, housing, higher education and social services for illegal immigrants as well as empower police to question anyone they have detained about their immigration status.
Koster said the legislation was the most comprehensive attempt by a state to address illegal immigration, but its prospects for passage were uncertain.
“The vast majority of legislators agree illegal immigration is one of the most serious issues facing our state,” he said. “Some estimate that the number of illegal immigrants in Missouri is approximately equal to the number of unemployed citizens suffering for lack of a job.
“If the General Assembly is truly serious in their desire to meaningfully address illegal immigration, this bill is the place to begin.”
Green, who has long argued for sanctions against employers who hire illegal workers, said wages were falling and crime was rising because of illegal immigration.
“Missouri is quickly becoming addicted to an illegal work force,” he said. “Entire industries have turned illegal, such as residential roofing, drywalling and poultry processing. Other work forces are on the verge of turning illegal, such as restaurant workers and hotel workers.”
Dozens of advocates for immigrant rights gathered at the Capitol to denounce several already-filed pieces of legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration or making English the language of state proceedings. The advocates also visited lawmakers personally.
Ezekiel Amador, chairman of the Westside Community Action Network in Kansas City, said he hadn’t had a chance to read Koster’s bill but was concerned about its potential effect on business owners.
“As we put on additional red tape, how is that going to affect our small businesses?” Amador asked. “I think the federal government should enforce the laws we already have.”
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