By Wally Kennedy
During a ceremonial signing of a new immigration bill on Monday in Joplin, Gov. Matt Blunt said the state of Missouri could not wait for the federal government to respond to what has become a serious national problem.
“This significant legislation will protect the safety of Missouri families and the security of our jobs from the threat of illegal immigration, and I am pleased that Missouri’s legislators responded to my call for action where Washington has failed to act,” Blunt said.
He said the United States is, for the most part, a nation of immigrants and that we “welcome legal immigrants to come here, learn our language and work here,” but that the rule of law with regard immigration must be enforced.
House Bill 1549 enacts into law policies Blunt proposed to crack down on illegal immigration, including prohibiting illegal immigrants from obtaining a license to drive. A press release issued by Blunt’s office characterized the bill’s provisions “as some of the strongest legislation in the country to fight illegal immigration.”
Flanked by state legislators from across Southwest Missouri, Blunt said the bill requires verification of lawful presence in this country for every individual arrested for incarceration.
It also prevents the creation of sanctuary cities in the state; requires verification of legal employment status of every public employee; allows for cancellation of state contracts for contractors if they hire illegal immigrants; requires public agencies to verify the legal status of applicants before providing welfare benefits; criminalizes the transportation of illegal immigrants for exploitative purposes; and enacts provisions to punish bad-acting employers who hire illegal immigrants.
But the fallout could have serious economic consequences for the state, according to Adolfo Castillo, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Castillo said he has not had an opportunity to read the bill, but understands that it mirrors similar legislation adopted last year in Oklahoma.
By Wally Kennedy
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