The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 11, 2012

Judge blocks Mo. city’s new E-Verify law

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield city officials say they are relieved that a lawsuit has been filed against an ordinance that requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check employees’ immigration status and fines any that employ illegal workers.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Positronics, Inc.; John Oke-Thomas + Associates, Stenger Management LLC and businessmen Joe Robles alleges that the E-Verify ordinance is unconstitutional and violates state and federal laws, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

In response to the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr issued a preliminary injunction Thursday prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance that voters approved in February.

Dorr said in his order that he issued the preliminary injunction because the plaintiff’s lawsuit “will probably succeed on the merits” based on a provision that requires the city finance department, rather than municipal courts, to enforce it.

City leaders have repeatedly described the ordinance as illegal and unenforceable, and urged Springfield voters to reject it.

After the ordinance passed, City Manager Greg Burris said he was “praying that we’ll be sued so there will be a stay on enforcement.”

Burris said Thursday it is too early to know how the city will defend the ordinance in court.

“From the start, we knew it would be the courts that would tell us what do,” he said.

Ozark Minutemen spokesman Jerry Wilson said Thursday that he was surprised that the lawsuit was filed by Springfield businesses rather than out-of-state advocacy groups.

While the group acknowledged that “eight or nine” parts of the ordinance were legally questionable, The Minutemen had urged City Council to approve and amend the ordinance before the election.

On Thursday, Wilson said the city should defend the voters’ will in court.

“This is not the city’s ordinance, this is the people’s ordinance.”

Mayor Bob Stephens, who took over the job on Tuesday, said the city will continue to uphold the laws of the city, state and nation but added he was “relieved” the lawsuit had been filed.

“We have always felt that the ordinance would engender some kind of legal action at some point,” he said.

“It was people from outside (Springfield) who created this problem but it’s Springfield businesses that have to deal with it.”

 

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