Chris Blank, AP, March 26, 2007
The [Missouri] House gave first-round approval Monday to a bill that requires Missouri police officers to ask about the immigration status of arrested suspects.
Police would need to ask everyone arrested his or her immigration status, and then verify that status with federal authorities whenever people say they are not U.S. citizens—regardless of whether they are legal or illegal immigrants.
Sponsoring Rep. Bob Onder said that the requirement is a “modest step forward” to ensure Missouri does not become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.
The measure also would allow the Missouri State Highway Patrol to send some of its officers to be trained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to enforce federal immigration laws. Onder said the Highway Patrol would likely train one trooper for each of the state’s nine districts.
Critics said the status requirements would impose new and unfair burdens on police and immigrants legally in the United States.
Rep. John Burnett said there are thousands of immigrants in the Kansas City area who have entered the United States legally but are not U.S. citizens. He said the bill would require police to verify the immigration status of all these people whenever they are arrested whereas American citizens would be taken at their word.
Rep. Jeff Roorda said the measure tries to make local law enforcement responsible for picking up the slack left by the federal government, which he said has refused to deal with illegal immigration.
The bill would not require immigration checks of those who are stopped for traffic violations such as speeding—just those who are arrested.
The House has already approved several immigration-related bills. Although requiring law enforcement to check immigration requires a final vote before moving to the Senate, the House has already approved bills barring illegal immigrants from attending state colleges and universities and requiring that English be used for official proceedings.
A separate Senate measure that incorporates many of the House bills and would make most employers verify immigration status of potential employees through the federal Basic Pilot program has received a hearing but not been voted on.
Police immigration enforcement is HB851.