Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As the nationwide debate over immigration continues, Missouri could be the next nexus after legislation introduced in the state Senate would require schools to check the immigration status of their students and require law enforcement officers to check a person's immigration status when they have reasonable cause, the Kansas City Star reported Thursday.
State Sen. Will Kraus is sponsoring the bill, according to the Star. It would also make not carrying proper documentation a misdemeanor. The newspaper noted that similar laws in Alabama and Arizona had been challenged by the U.S. Justice Department. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the Arizona law in 2012.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that students have a right to a public education regardless of their immigration status. Kraus told the Star that his bill would not challenge that ruling. "This is simply an attempt to track noncitizens in public schools in order to get an accurate set of data," he said.
Kraus had previously pushed Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to sue the federal government for repayment of costs of enforcing federal immigration laws, according to the newspaper. Kraus was informed that there was "no known cost to the state", he told the Star, and he believes this legislation would help in tracking and assessing those costs.
Vanessa Crawford, executive director of Missouri Immigration and Refugee Advocates, told the newspaper that the law could cause problems for the state, such as drawing litigation from the Justice Department.
"This bill is a really bad idea," Crawford said. "This would force police and school officials to act as immigration agents, and would result in innocent people facing harassment. And passing a law that will undoubtedly end up in court is irresponsible."
Governing previously reported that Alabama saw a dramatic decrease in the number of Hispanic students in its schools after its law went into effect in October. About 2,400 Hispanic students were absent on the first day that the law went into effect, although many returned after concerted efforts by teachers and administrators across the state.