Monday, December 17, 2007

Immigration Wars in Missouri

Blunt and Nixon Vie Over Who's Tougher
Governor Unveils 4 Proposals
Concerns About E-Verify
Governor Matt Blunt outlined a plan to crack down on illegal immigration Monday that asks cities and schools to do more. His E-Verify plan is one of four new proposals meant to tackle an issue that polls show is a top concern of Missourians, and voters across the country.
Click HERE to watch my KY3 News @ 10 report.
Blunt's plan includes tougher penalties for contractors who employ illegal immigrants and for anyone found transporting illegal immigrants. The part of the plan we decided to focus on was the mandate, which would require public employers like school districts and local governments to check the immigration status of new hires.
While the Blunt administration believes E-Verify is a more thorough system to check the status of applicants than the I-9 system, some states have balked at E-Verify and critics have called it unreliable.
This story from the Daily Herald in Chicago details some of the problems in Illinois. Earlier this year, the state had passed a ban on E-Verify, but the Department of Homeland Security later got them to back down through a lawsuit. Critics of the system say it incorrectly identifies one in 10 naturalized citizens as illegal immigrants. Some have pegged the accuracy rate at below 50 percent.
A Human Resources worker with Springfield Public Schools told the KY3 Political Notebook he has heard about the "mixed information of data" collected by E-Verify and would want to learn more before using the system.
Springfield City spokesperson Louise Whall said the city isn't very familiar with the E-Verify system and doesn't think its necessary.
"We haven't had any instances that we could recall where we had someone slip through the cracks that turned out to be an illegal worker," Whall said. "We have a pretty stringent background check process."
Springfield Democratic Representative Sara Lampe called the entire issue "a distraction," from the real issues of healthcare and education. Although using the E-Verify system would not carry a cost, Rep. Lampe said some of the enforcement portions of Blunt's initiatives could carry an unintended price tag.
"Very few things that we decide to do in state government are without a price tag. And so any time you see a new initiative, it's going to cost some money somewhere," Rep. Lampe said.
Blunt spokesperson Jessica Robinson said the Governor does not expect to request a budget line for this 4-point plan. When I asked Robinson if she new of any "sanctuary cities" in Missouri, she said she had not had that conversation with the Governor. When pressed whether I could report that the administration did not know of any sanctuary cities, Robinson replied, "I am not willing to say that at this time."
State Democrats clearly don't want to be on the "wrong" side of the immigration issue heading into the 2008 election season. Following Blunt's announcement, the State Democratic party put out a release claiming Blunt supported President Bush’s “comprehensive” immigration reform plan. Dems also charged that "instead of taking action against employers who hire illegal immigrants, Blunt has given them economic amnesty by awarding them state contracts and state tax credits."
"For three years, the only thing Matt Blunt said about illegal immigrants is that he supported President Bush’s plan to give them amnesty,” said Sen. Frank Barnitz, who represents a central Missouri district and parts of Rolla. “Now that he’s down in the polls and has a tough re-election campaign around the corner, he wants Missourians to believe he’s been a leader on this issue. The people of Missouri aren’t buying it.”
Jay Nixon's campaign for Governor couldn't bare to stand on the sidelines. In an effort to highlight Nixon's tough line on illegal immigration, the campaign released a statement announcing the guilty plea of a Lake of the Ozarks developer on illegal immigration charges.
"While Matt Blunt was chasing cameras and holding press conferences, Attorney General Nixon was busy taking real action against an employer who hired illegal immigrants,” said Oren Shur, spokesman for Nixon’s campaign.

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