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State committee hears varied opinions on immigration

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis – A Missouri House committee heard public testimony on the immigration debate in St. Louis Monday. The effect of illegal immigrants on the economy took center stage.

Lawmakers say they want to prevent Missouri businesses from unwittingly hiring undocumented workers. Republican committee chair Ed Emery said that's especially difficult in the construction industry, where multiple levels of subcontracting make it hard for employers to verify immigration status.

Emery said a more secure Social Security card system may emerge as a tool.

"That alone could potentially be a dramatic help to the employers in terms of protecting them if they're doing their due diligence," Emery said.

Immigrant rights advocates also testified at the hearing.

Ann Rynearson with the International Institute of St. Louis said newcomers are good for the U.S. economy.

"Actually, we can afford to have people coming in, because most of the Americans are getting rather old; we're not reproducing ourselves, Rynearson said. "And it's the immigrants who are helping to make us a growing country. We need them."

The chair of the special House committee says there may be up to 35,000 illegal immigrants in Missouri. The panel will issue a report by year's end.

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