In a move similar to ones chided by federal courts in Alabama and Arizona, one Kansas City area lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require Missouri schools to check the immigration status of its students.
Republican state Sen. Will Kraus' bill would also allow police to question a person's citizenship at traffic stops and makes it a state misdemeanor not to carry proper citizenship documentation.
The U.S. Department of Justice last October blocked portions of an immigration law in Alabama that drove Hispanics away from the state and their children out of schools. While federal judges let stand part of the law that allows police to check a person's immigration status during a traffic stop, the court barred a provision mandating schools to check students' citizenship status and overrode the allowance of misdemeanor filings for those who don't carry federal registration papers. The federal decision sparked a heated spat between the Justice Department and the Alabama Attorney General.
Kraus' copycat bill aims to "track noncitizens in public schools in order to get an accurate set of data," the Kansas City Star reports. Schools would be required to ask new students for a birth certificate or proof of legal immigration, but would still be able to attend school if they or their parents are undocumented. All information collected will be kept confidential. From the Star:
Kraus’ bill would require that schools turn data collected over to the state Board of Education, which would compile and submit an annual report to the General Assembly. The report would contain information regarding immigration classifications of enrolled students and numbers of participants in English as a second language programs, as well as the cost to the state of their education.
The report also would attempt to analyze the impact of educating noncitizens on the quality of education provided to students who are citizens.
Kraus says that the bill is part of an effort to pressure Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster to sue the federal government to recoup costs of enforcing federal immigration laws.
"I asked my office to reach out to state agencies to find out who actually tracked the cost of illegal immigration on Missouri taxpayers. The results were underwhelming as we found most agencies have no idea of the true cost to taxpayers," Kraus said in a statement Tuesday. "Immigration is ultimately a federal issue and the solution will be a federal solution. But until a solution is reached, the impact of the federal government’s lack of enforcement is being felt at the state level. As fiscal stewards of our residents' tax dollars, we have a responsibility to determine that impact."
Still, St. Louis Attorney Ken Schmitt told KMOX that the bill would spook families, inciting many to pull their children out of school or flee the state.
"The intent of the statutes is to have happen exactly what has happened in Alabama," Schmitt, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association Missouri/Kansas Chapter, told KMOX.