By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – Legal experts in Missouri say the Show Me State’s immigration legislation would probably hold up in court, even though parts of Arizona’s immigration law were struck down Monday.
The Missouri General Assembly passed a wide-ranging bill in 2008, which, among other provisions, requires law officers to check the legal status of people they arrest and requires the commercial driver’s license test be given in English. The law also withheld grants from cities known as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants.
“The 2008 bill does not have any of the provisions that were at issue in the federal lawsuit,” attorney Ken Schmitt told Missouri Watchdog on Tuesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-3 margin Monday the Arizona law overreached in preventing illegal immigrants from seeking work and allowing officers, without a warrant, to arrest people if the officer believes they are in the United States illegally.
Missouri’s immigration law language differs significantly. Rather than preventing illegal aliens from seeking work, it makes it a crime to knowingly employ them. Also, law enforcement officers can check the legal residency of a person suspected of being illegal only after an arrest.
That latter provision, also part of the Arizona law, was upheld, with an asterisk. Justice Anthony Kennedy said it was too soon to say if the ID check requirement goes too far, because the law has yet to be enforced.
Schmitt, a past Kansas and Missouri chapter president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that law would probably stand if reviewed in the future.
“I think at the end of the day that type of language is going to be enforced — that you can only check status if they are arrested for something else,” he said.
John Ammann, director of the St. Louis University legal clinic, told Watchdog most of the Missouri law would likely be upheld, but he thinks one component — making it illegal to transport unlawful immigrants to work — could be overturned if challenged.
“If it can’t be a crime to seek work, you can’t make it a crime to help them drive to work,” he said.
In the most-recent legislative session, Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee, introduced SB 473 — which asked Attorney General Chris Koster to sue the federal government to recoup the cost of immigration enforcement — as well as SB 590, which would require public schools to determine which students are illegal, and allowed police to check immigration status on all traffic stops.
The legislation, which Schmitt dubbed an “Alabama copycat” in reference to that state’s recently enacted immigration laws, went nowhere in the Missouri Legislature.
“From a policy perspective, that law was terrible,” he said.
If Kraus’ legislation had passed, Ammann said, the laws would have been “decimated by the courts.”
“Both of those would have clearly been struck down,” he said.