Archive for January, 2012

Register with MIRA for Immigration Advocacy Day!

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

On Tuesday, March 6th, MIRA will be at the State Capitol Building in Jefferson City to advocate for the rights of immigrants and refugees across the state. There will be opportunities for you to speak with your law makers about specific legislation such as SB590 and other anti-immigrant bills, and to show your support for your communities across Missouri.

Click here to register for this day-long event.

Please be sure to indicate if you can car pool.

Thanks and hope to see you there!

Missouri Catholic Conference speaks out against immigration bill

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — In a Missouri Senate committee hearing on Jan. 17, advocates for immigrants voiced their opposition to Senate Bill 590, which would require schools to check students’ immigration status and send that information to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, R- Lee’s Summit, also would make it a state misdemeanor to not carry registration documents and would allow law-enforcement officers upon a stop to determine immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present.

According to the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), public policy agency of the state’s bishops, only one person came to speak in favor of the bill, while dozens came to speak against it. The senate’s general laws committee, which was hearing testimony, allowed less than an hour for comments and gave each person who spoke against the bill less than one minute to talk. Not all of those who came to speak out against the bill were able to share their opinion with the committee, and little time was left for questions from committee members.

Pat Dougherty of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of St. Louis testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Missouri Catholic Conference and said that not only would the bill impact almost every person in Missouri — as all children would have to show a birth certificate to enroll in school — but the bill would also create divisiveness.

The MCC submitted written testimony to the committee emphasizing the stress this would put on already overburdened school and law-enforcement officials.

Vic Lenz, president of the Missouri School Board Association’s board of directors who also testified in opposition to the bill, echoed the MCC’s sentiment and said the bill would diminish schools’ commitment to educate every child and add to administrative burdens.

Enrique Castro, director of the office of Hispanic ministries for the Diocese of Jefferson City, attended the hearing but wasn’t able to testify.

In its in-depth written testimony, the Missouri Catholic Conference stated:

“This legislation punishes everyone — the school parent, the citizen who has a legal driver’s license and may look like an ‘illegal alien,’ the overburdened school principal and law-enforcement official and the taxpayer who must foot the bill for this overreaction to concerns regarding undocumented persons. In the end all Missourians lose when a climate of distrust and divisiveness is fostered in our state.”

Catholic teaching recognizes the right of nations to control their borders, but also asserts the rights of persons to migrate who are faced with extreme poverty, persecution and famine. Pope Benedict XVI has stated that “migration and the problems to which it gives rise must be addressed humanely, with justice and compassion.”

The Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates, a coalition of faith, labor, community and business organizations, said in a statement that the bill creates a harassing and unwelcoming climate for both documented and undocumented immigrants. “The far-reaching bill places unfunded mandates on police and school districts around the state. Police departments would be forced to act as immigration agents, checking papers at any stop and arresting anyone ‘suspected’ of being an undocumented immigrant.”

Those interested in tracking immigration legislation in the general assembly can visit the Missouri Catholic Conference’s website at MOcatholic.org. The testimony can be found at http://stlouisreview.com/1GX.

Information for this story was provided by the Missouri Catholic Conference.

SB 590 is Bad for Families and Bad for Missouri

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Community leaders from around Missouri have joined together to speak out against SB 590, a bill filed by Sen. Kraus’ of Lees Summit. Taking cues from now-notorious anti-immigrant legislation in Alabama and Arizona, this bill is an extreme and expensive anti-immigrant omnibus bill to the Missouri Senate.

Partners around the state have launched a petition site where voters may tell their elected officials to oppose the bill.  The site is BadForFamiliesBadForMissouri.org.

The legislation, most of which has been enjoined by courts in other states, creates a harassing and unwelcoming climate for immigrants, documented and undocumented, throughout the state.  The far-reaching bill places unfunded mandates on police and school districts around the state.  Police departments would be forced to act as immigration agents, checking papers at any stop, and arresting anyone “suspected” of being an undocumented immigrant.  Not only does this create new enforcement requirements without additional funding, but it will cause division between the police and the community, creating a climate of mistrust and suspicion.  School officials would be forced to ascertain and report the immigration status of all students, as well as their parents.  In a state where many districts are facing budget crises, SB 590 not only creates substantial requirements on administrators’ time and energy, but similarly alienates immigrant families from school officials.

These provisions have been a nightmare of enforcement elsewhere, and have already been the subject of intense litigation and efforts to repeal.  Not only does SB 590 run counter to Missouri values of equality, fairness, and respect, but it is an expensive and irresponsible distraction from our state’s real needs: addressing budget shortfalls and educating Missouri’s school children.

“At a time when our district needs to gain the trust and cooperation of parents to increase our average daily attendance – one of the standards of accreditation – this bill sabotages that effort by creating a hostile and intimidating relationship between our district and its families,” said Airick Leonard West, President of the Kansas City School District Tuesday.

Ken Schmitt, Chair of the Missouri/Kansas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association had this to say:  “Every bit of the language of MO SB 590 has been the subject of legal challenge from the United States Federal Government in Arizona, in Alabama and in other states. All of this language has been halted dead in its tracts in either the Ninth Circuit or the Eleventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals or both. In an economic environment where the Missouri Legislature will be hard-pressed to meet its constitutional obligation to balance the state budget and many of the difficult budget decisions this session will undoubtedly come at the expense of critical funding for programs that have real significance to the lives of our most vulnerable residents, the last thing Missouri needs to do is waste time passing legislation which has already caused other states to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in useless litigation.”

Go to BadForFamiliesBadForMissouri.org TODAY and tell your legislators to stand up for Missouri’s immigrant families.  Tell them to VOTE NO on SB 590.