A scaled-back version of a bill that targets crimes committed by people who are in the U.S. illegally is now in the hands of the Missouri House, after the Senate passed it 27-6 on Thursday.
The new version of Senate Bill 34 makes it a Class C felony for someone who had been deported to illegally re-enter the U.S., come to Missouri and commit “any dangerous felony,” such as manslaughter or rape. But the Senate removed language that required local jailers to turn suspects over to federal immigration authorities as soon as possible.
Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, sponsored the bill. He said he wants to stop “violent felonies,” and not minor misdemeanors like marijuana possession.
“We’re not targeting people that have overstayed their visas nor are productive members of society,” he said.
Last year, Cunningham proposed a similar bill that passed through the Senate but died in the House. With a new Republican governor, Cunningham is prioritizing this bill in the hopes of getting it passed this session.
While Democrats argue the bill is unnecessary and should be handled at the federal level, Cunningham disagrees.
“They can’t do the job all by themselves," Cunningham says. "With the number they’re deporting right now, if we can save a life, I think we need to do it.”
Even with the changes, Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp, of Creve Coeur, said, it’s a bad bill.
“It is the federal government’s purview to oversee immigration policy, not the state of Missouri’s,” she said. “If an undocumented immigrant commits a dangerous crime, I want that person out of this country, not getting three square meals a day paid for by Missouri taxpayers.”
Thursday’s vote comes two days after about 60 people lobbied against the bill on behalf of immigrants, concerned that it’s part of a nationwide anti-immigrant push. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump issued a revised executive order banning visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries and suspending the nation’s refugee program indefinitely.
Sara John of the St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America was among the 60, and doesn’t think much of the revised version of Senate Bill 34.
“It’s trying to make our state and our communities anti-immigrant,” she said. “This is the kind of bill that is the slow whittling away of our values.”
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