ImmigrationMissouri proposes tough Alabama-like immigration law

Published 12 January 2012

Following in the footsteps of Alabama, lawmakers in Missouri are considering a bill that would require public schools to check the immigration status of children and for law enforcement officers to determine if an individual is legally in the United States

Following in the footsteps of Alabama, lawmakers in Missouri are considering a bill that would require public schools to check the immigration status of children and for law enforcement officers to determine if an individual is legally in the United States.

The controversial new bill is sponsored by Republican State Senator Will Kraus.

Federal judges have blocked several portions of similar immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, while the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that children have a right to attend public schools regardless of their immigration status.

In Alabama schools, out of fear, Hispanic rates of absenteeism have skyrocketed. To assuage fears and encourage children to return, Larry Craven, the state’s interim superintendent, announced that schools would accept children without documents.

“We would like all parents and students to know, regardless of whether the enrolling student has an original or certified copy of their birth certificate, the student will be enrolled and receive full participation in all of the academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs that will be offered by the local school system,” Craven said.

The Alabama law is currently under review and several lawmakers are proposing changes to the law to remedy its unforeseen consequences.

In defense of his bill, Missouri Senator Kraus said his proposal was “simply an attempt to track noncitizens in public schools in order to get an accurate set of data.”

In contrast many immigration groups have sharply criticized the legislation.

Vanessa Crawford, the executive director of Missouri Immigration and Refugee Advocates, said the proposed law singles out immigrants and will likely run into many legal challenges.

“This bill is a really bad idea,” Crawford said. “This would force police and school officials to act as immigration agents, and would result in innocent people facing harassment. And passing a law that will undoubtedly end up in court is irresponsible.”

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