Law enforcement across Missouri is closely watching a bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.
Senate Bill 590 could put Missouri in the national spotlight if it gains traction in Jefferson City. It would require schools and local police to check a person's immigration status and the bill's raising eyebrows in the metro.
Richard Williams, the police chief in Lake Winnebago on the Jackson and Cass County line, said his department's small holding cell sometimes has drivers that can't show any form of identification.
"We walk up and ask for a driver's license and he'll say, ‘I don't have a driver's license.' ‘Why don't you have one?' (We'll ask)... 'I'm illegal,'" the chief said while recounting part of a recent stop. "He'll (the illegal immigrant) actually say that."
Williams is aware of Senate Bill 590 written by a Lee's Summit senator. Part of it would require Missouri police officers to check the immigration status of a person on "any lawful stops" when they have "reasonable suspicion" about citizenship, not just after arrests.
Williams said he's not sure a new state law is the solution to illegal immigration.
"I think there is an immense cost in detaining illegals, not just in law enforcement. In law enforcement alone, it's a huge cost because we don't know how to deal with these," said Williams.
"For Kansas City, it means a terrible detriment to the economic viability of many of our most interesting neighborhoods," said Lynda Callon.
Callon runs the Westside Community Action Network in Kansas City. The group helps many in the immigrant and refugee communities.
Callon is concerned the other part of the bill, requiring families to prove citizenship to enroll in Missouri schools, could keep some children out of the classroom.
"It's ruling by fear not only those that are here in the country illegally, but those that are here legally. It doesn't just affect the people that are undocumented, it affects all immigrants," she said.
Sen. Will Kraus, the bill's backer, said it will give Missouri taxpayers a true price tag on the cost of illegal immigration, and that's one of the reason's he's pushing for it.
The U.S. Supreme Court may step in to the other states that have passed similar legislation, but that would mostly likely happen after Missouri's session.
Ever since Arizona's landmark anti-illegal immigration law, five other states have passed similar legislation. Copycat laws were passed in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, and Utah. All of their laws could change depending on what the Supreme Court decides about Arizona's law later this year.
To read previous coverage on the proposed Missouri bill, click here.
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