The first measure from the State Legislature came in 2007, when a constitutional amendment was proposed to make English the official language of the state. It was passed by voters by an overwhelming margin.
A year later, the General Assembly passed a law that required law enforcement officials to verify the immigration status of any person arrested, and inform federal authorities if the person is found to be there illegally. Further, it stipulated that any city or town acting as a sanctuary city to illegal immigrants would be ineligible for grant money coming from the state. And it required the commercial driver’s license written test to be given only in English.
In the words of one state legislator: “With the passage of this legislation (we) sent a clear message that illegal immigrants are not welcome in our state, and that they are certainly not welcome to receive public benefits at the cost of (our) taxpayers.”
In 2009, those state regulations went even further. A new law ensured that public institutions of higher learning would not award financial aid to individuals who are there illegally.
Said the legislator: “The bill represents another common sense approach to the issue as it ensures taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize the education of someone who is in our country illegally.”
The legislator is not Russell Pearce.
And the state is not Arizona.
Perhaps you weren’t aware of this state’s stance on immigration because there was no national outrage, no boycotts from cities across the country, no jokes on late-night talk shows, and no president publicly calling the legislation “misguided.”
But what the state of Missouri has done is to quietly and effectively pass immigration laws in its state that the federal government has refused to address.
“I don’t understand why they’re boycotting Arizona,” said Missouri State Rep. Nita Jane Ayres, a Republican who is also the author of the above-mentioned quotes. “The first thing I would sense coming from the folks in Arizona is that they’re frustrated the federal government is not doing anything to protect us from the effects of illegal immigration. Arizona said enough is enough, we have to take some of this into our own hands. In my mind, that’s the way it has to be sometimes.”
Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, which takes effect July 29, is really not that much different than what Missouri has had on the books for a couple years. Where Missouri requires police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone “who is arrested,” Arizona’s goes one step further, requiring police to question anyone during a “lawful stop” if there is “reasonable suspicion” to think they are in this country illegally.
But the “Show Me State” hasn’t suffered anywhere near the backlash that Arizona has endured.
Granted, Missouri doesn’t have near the Hispanic population of Arizona or our proximity to the border. It also doesn’t have politicians as galvanizing as Pearce or Joe Arpaio or any number of our past governors. And, more importantly, Missouri had its ducks in a row when the new laws were passed.
Arizona was in such a rush to do something about illegal immigration, it passed a bill that — in its original form — was vague and poorly worded. As the furor mounted across the country, those questionable phrases were amended or omitted. But, by then, the damage had already been done.
So while Arizona remains the boycott capitol of the United States, Missouri quietly carries on as the best example of a “Show Me You Are Legal State.”