The Missouri legislature, which is currently made up of mostly conservative Republicans, is currently debating a variety of different anti-immigrant bills in the House and Senate. Immigrants and activist groups including Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA) prepared members to lobby the legislature on March 6 in support of immigrant rights. MIRA’s director, Vanessa Crawford say,” It’s not enough not to do bad things. We have to do things that welcome immigrants to our state.”
Missouri’s laws that may be unconstitutional
There is strong opposition to the immigration laws lawmakers are proposing in Missouri. According to MIRA, the HB 275 law which would require every employer in Missouri to be part of the E-verify program. This may be unconstitutional. Not only is E-verify counterproductive, but it is costly for employers. It costs “the average Missouri employer $73 per-employee and the average small business employer an estimated $147 per-employee.” Furthermore, the coalition argues that E-verify is not always accurate. For example, women who are in the process of changing their names due to marriage or divorce are affected, as well as documented, work-authorized foreign born individuals. “Often people just won’t hire immigrants, documented or otherwise,” Crawford said, “just to avoid the confusion and cost that E-verify would cause.” This could also prevent discrimination against immigrants and even end up risky for employers. Employers who unknowingly hire an undocumented immigrant may end up serving jail time for their mistake.
These bills create an element of mistrust for immigrants
Two other controversial bills would invalidate laws and contracts made in other countries; these include marriage, divorce, child custody matters, and other religious or foreign law matters. According to Crawford, these bills are “unnecessary and harmful, and create an environment of fear and mistrust.” With over 230,000 immigrants living in Missouri, these immigrants pay over $652 million in taxes. Laws that encourage and welcome immigrants are good for the economy, job growth, and creation of small businesses. MIRA is working on pro-immigrant proposals to raise awareness of the positive contributions immigrants make to Missouri and the U.S. There is much optimism that a bipartisan immigration law will pass with a pathway to citizenship for these immigrants, and pro-immigrant rights coalitions have an important role in making it happen.
If you have questions regarding the changing immigration laws in Missouri and the U.S., contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.