In his latest Capital Report, Speaker of the House Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, offers an update on immigration legislation:
I want to give you an update on the immigration reform bills that are working their way through the process this week. I have talked to you often of the need to handle this problem. While I have often pointed out immigration reform is primarily the responsibility of the Federal Government, Missouri can no longer sit idly by waiting for Washington to take action.
Three key pieces of immigration reform legislation are currently in the Senate. HB 1463 prohibits illegal aliens to enroll in institutions of higher learning with the registrar of each college verifying the citizenship of all new students.
HB 1549 also deals with the verification of citizenship status. This bill requires law enforcement to verify the citizenship status of anyone arrested within 48 hours of being arrested. If the person is found not to be a legal citizen then the arresting agency is required to contact the Federal Government. This bill also prohibits so called "sanctuary cities" from being created in Missouri. These cities act as havens for illegal immigrants and this bill will not allow them to be created in Missouri.
HB 1626 mandates that illegal immigrants cannot receive local or state public assistance unless mandated under federal law. Basically you have to be a legal citizen to receive public assistance or state aid. All three of these bills, HB 1463, HB 1549, and HB 1626 have been passed out of the House with strong bi-partisan support. They are all now in the Senate and working their way through the committee process to reach the floor for a vote. I am confident that all three of these bills will pass out of the Senate with little trouble.
A final bill dealing with immigration reform, HB 1736, is also being considered by the House, and this is the possibly the most contentious of the immigration reform bills. HB 1736 deals with employer verification of immigration status of new workers. There is a real fear on the part of many in the business community who do not want to be forced to pick up the slack of the Federal Government and become INS agents.
It is the job of the Federal Government to ensure the orderly immigration of people into this country, but with their failure to do so Missouri must step in and find away to check immigration status. HB 1736 would require employers to verify immigration status of all new employees. Employers would not be held liable for unknowingly employing illegal aliens if the employer provides proof of enrollment in a Federal work authorization program. They also wouldn't be held liable if they have a sworn affidavit attesting that all employees are lawfully present in Missouri.
This bill will not punish employers who unknowingly may have hired an illegal immigrant. This could be due to the illegal immigrant having false documentation or stolen social security number. However, if an employer "knowingly" hires an illegal immigrant they will be punished. This bill will go a long way to removing the magnet of employment to illegal immigrants coming to Missouri. Right now HB 1736 is on the House calendar to be heard on the floor.
As we approach the final weeks of session I will keep you informed of the progress of these important pieces of legislation.