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MO House passes ban on illegal immigrant college students

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By AP/KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – Members of the Missouri House on Wednesday endorsed legislation barring illegal immigrants from attending public universities in Missouri, essentially reasserting an existing federal ban.

The measure also requires the universities to certify to House and Senate budget committees that they have not "knowingly admitted" illegal immigrants. They could face cuts in state funding if they allow such students to attend.

The House gave the bill first-round approval Tuesday on a 117-38 vote. It is expected to move to the Senate this week after a second House vote.

Some lawmakers complained the measure does nothing more than encourage racism. "We are intentionally instigating witch hunts among people who don't look like the majority in this country," said Rep. John Burnett (D-Kansas City). "People who are dark-skinned will inevitably be looked at with suspicion on college campuses."

"I'm worried we'll start defining illegal alien as one who doesn't look like everyone else," added Rep. Barbara Fraser (D-St. Louis County).

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nolte (R-Gladstone) said he just wants to ensure that all universities are following the law that already exists. He also said it's not fair to such students to allow them to get a degree only to discover they can't find employment because of their illegal status.

Other backers said it's needed to keep tax dollars from being directed to illegal immigrants. "Saying you're here legally is not a burden on anybody," said Rep. Doug Ervin (R-Kearney).

Others said the legislation is unnecessary because universities already cannot admit illegal immigrants under federal law. "I don't know if this bill really accomplishes anything other than the status quo," said Rep. Tim Flook, (R-Liberty). Flook said his family immigrated to the United States from Mexico long ago, and while he agreed with the concept, he had some concerns about the bill.

He and others said the measure steps on federal authority over immigration issues and could be challenged in court.

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