The Missouri Senate General Laws Committee has voted “do pass” SB 590, a bill that requires public schools to check the citizenship status of students. Law enforcement officials making a lawful stop are required to check the legal status of anyone they suspect is not lawfully present in the United States.
SB 590 is an overreaction. Missouri is not Arizona. There are no official numbers concerning the number of people unlawfully present in Missouri, but no impartial observer suggests Missouri is inundated with “illegal aliens.” The Pew Research Center estimates Missouri has between 35,000 and 75,000 unauthorized immigrants (2010 survey data). In contrast, Arizona is estimated to have between 275,000 and 500,000 unauthorized immigrants.
The Missouri Catholic Conference opposes SB 590. The bill is unnecessary and divisive. It will have a chilling effect on the legal enrollment of children in public schools. The bill might also encourage racial profiling of U.S. citizens during routine traffic stops, such as Mexican-Americans who look like “illegal aliens.”
Catholic teaching recognizes the right of nations to protect their borders but also acknowledges the right of people to migrate even without legal sanction when facing violence, persecution, famine or extreme poverty. Pope Benedict XVI has said: “Migration and the problems to which it gives rise must be addressed humanely, with justice and compassion.”
Voting for SB 590 were: Sen. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield), Sen. Brian Nieves (R-Washington), Sen. Chuck Purgason (R-Caulfield), Sen. Brian Munzlinger (R-Williamstown), Sen. Ron Richard (R-Joplin), Sen. Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville) and Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph). Voting against SB 590 were: Sen. Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City) and Sen. Robin Wright-Jones (D-St. Louis). Network members are urged to thank those senators who voted against SB 590 and urge the other senators to rethink their position.
The next step will be for the bill to be placed on the Missouri Senate calendar for debate by the full Senate. The MCC is preparing a more in-depth Action Alert that explains why SB 590 is misguided and should be defeated. Stay tuned for more.