By some estimates, approximately 12 million people live in the United States without proper documentation. Of this number, 50,000 or so - fewer than 1 percent - live in Missouri.
This small fraction of the national and state populations continues to galvanize legislatures, large and small, to actions ranging from the prudent to the palpably political. Missouri’s own immigration laws include both sorts of provisions. Under a new state law passed by the legislature last session, people seeking commercial driver’s licenses will now have to pass the test in English (probably a prudent stipulation) and cities that fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities may lose some state grants (another reasonable enough regulation).
The new law will also require applicants for public benefits like food stamps and affordable housing to prove they are U.S. citizens or are legally in the country - a regulation that seems somewhat mean-spirited, considering the law’s writers dropped tough sections of the original bill that would put real teeth into regulations punishing employers for hiring undocumented residents in the first place.
Supporters of the new law say that it puts Missouri in the forefront of states working to crack down on illegal immigration. It really doesn’t, but I am not sure that’s such a bad thing.
Like most mayors of diverse cities, I continue to believe that the only fair and effective way to address real immigration issues is nationally, not locally.