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Forum on Monday to discuss Missouri's immigration laws

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A special committee of Missouri lawmakers will hold a public forum in St. Louis Monday.

House Speaker Rod Jetton created the committee last spring after immigration became a hot national topic. Legislators considered several bills dealing with immigration issues, but failed to pass any.

Some social advocates say they would prefer a federal, rather than state-by-state, solution.

But chairman of the immigration committee, Rep. Ed Emery (R-), says he doesn't expect the federal government to come to a resolution any time soon: "For that reason I think it's important for the state not to sit back and just wait for the government when the issue is having a significant impact in our state."

Emery says some estimates put Missouri's population of illegal immigrants between 22,000-35,000.

This will be the committee's last forum held around the state. They'll turn in a report to the House Speaker by the end of the year.

One of the many ideas they'll hear is to provide more education to children of immigrants.

Father Jack Schuler, with Metropolitan Congregations United, says his group wants the state to protect the right of children of illegal immigrants to go to public schools. And he says more money should go toward teaching those children English.

"Some of the ESL programs---English as a Second Language---are not being funded adequately, so it becomes a catch 22 if you want people to learn English then we have to teach it."

Father Schuler also says immigrant children who live in Missouri should be able to pay in-state tuition at the college level, rather than out-of-state.

The meeting starts at 8:00 a.m. Monday at Harris-Stowe State University

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