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Missouri Senate panel to focus on attracting more legal immigrants to state

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 14, 2012 - The Missouri state Senate’s “Blue Ribbon Panel on Immigration” launches its three-hearing schedule in St. Louis on Thursday, as part of an effort to underscore that the GOP-controlled chamber isn’t anti-immigration.

Chairman John Lamping, R-Ladue, says it’s coincidental that the hearings come just after a national election in which many Republicans lost elsewhere, in part, because large majorities of key immigrant groups backed Democrats.

Lamping noted that the panel had been discussed by Senate leaders last spring and set up in August. But he acknowledges that immigration has political, as well as policy, ramifications.

Although only five state senators sit on the panel, Lamping said several others plan to stop by Thursday’s morning-long hearing. The public session begins at 9 a.m. at the Regional Chamber and Growth Association offices, One Metropolitan Square (211 N. Broadway), Suite 1300.

The other hearings will be Nov. 30 in Kansas City and Dec. 13 in Jefferson City.

Thurday's scheduled speakers are to include representatives of local immigrant groups, business leaders and academics.

“We need to have a better understanding of the impact of immigration in Missouri,” said Lamping. “Our focus is to understand where we need to update and improve our laws to make Missouri a more attractive destination for legal immigrants.”

Missouri lags behind many other states in its Hispanic population. But the St Louis region is home to the largest bloc of Bosnian immigrants outside the country of Bosnia, as well as large populations of Asian-Americans.

The speakers are slated to include:

--Bob Fox, board chairman of Casa de Salud;

--Anna Crosslin, president and chief executive of the International Institute of St. Louis;

-- Denny Coleman, president and chief executive of the St. Louis County Economic Council;

-- Joe Reagan, president and chief executive of the St Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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