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Local Legislation Update: Missouri’s SB 1070 Copycat and In-State Tuition Bills

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Yesterday in Missouri’s capital, advocates for immigrant and refugee rights from across the state gathered for a lobby day where they spoke to legislators about immigration bills coming up this session. The lobby day, led by Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates (MIRA), focused on preventing anti-immigrant legislation from moving forward and promoting legislation that would expand access to affordable higher education for undocumented students in the state.

Missouri’s upcoming anti-immigrant legislation

There are three distinct pieces of anti-immigrant legislation that are currently moving through the Missouri legislature. Straight out of the anti-immigrant playbook, this legislation ignores the Constitution and is more about the politics of fear than about keeping the community safe.

Missouri is attempting to resurrect “show-me-your-papers” legislation similar to the infamous SB 1070 law in Arizona. Missouri’s proposed version would, like Arizona’s, force all local and state law enforcement officers to inquire about the immigration status of everyone they stop. And just like SB 1070, Missouri’s SJR 18 would encourage, if not mandate, racial profiling. Study after study has shown that such laws are a massive economic drain on the states that pass them, costing the state millions if not billions of dollars. In 2016, Arizona ended their “show-me-your-papers” policy after multiple, years-long court battles.

Nevertheless, some Missouri lawmakers are determined to push this bad idea forward. If SJR 18 moves forward, the question will be put before voters on the November 2020 ballot. If that is the case, Missouri will likely see a massive wave of anti-immigrant fear-based campaigning.

Track SJR 18’s progress and find out how to take action against it here.

Missouri’s SB 64 is an attempt to block state funding for jurisdictions with safe city policies — also known as sanctuary cities. Trump Administration’s has repeatedly tried this tactic but numerous courts have blocked their attempt to withhold federal money for this purpose.

Safe cities, contrary to how they are portrayed by Republicans and the Trump Administration, are an attempt to prioritize local law enforcement resources, ensure immigrants feel safe communicating with the police, follow the Constitution, and focus on immigrants who have committed serious crimes. More, research has shown that safe cities are safer than cities with more anti-immigrant policies, because undocumented communities feel safer communicating and cooperating with the police.

The third piece of anti-immigrant legislation being considered this session, HB 607, would remove the possibility for parole for any undocumented immigrant within the state and mandate a full jail sentence, regardless of the crime committed.   

Expanding access to higher education in Missouri

Currently, undocumented students, even DACA recipients, who live in Missouri and who have graduated from a state high school are forced to pay international — not even out-of-state — tuition rates if they want to attend Missouri’s public colleges and universities. The international rates can be three times as much as the cost of in-state tuition rates. Additionally, Missouri Dreamers are barred from accessing tuition assistance from the state, pricing many out of an education.      

Several bills in the Missouri legislature, however, seek to fix this problem. The “Missouri Tuition Equity Act,” HB 557, would allow students who live in the state and attended their last two years of high school in Missouri to access in-state tuition rates regardless of their immigration status. The bill would also bar post-secondary educational institutions that receive state funds from denying admission based on an applicant’s immigration status.    

If the legislation moves forward, Missouri would join its neighbors in Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois as well as 13 other states in allowing undocumented students to access the more-affordable in-state tuition rates.

Expanding access to higher education in this way has been widely popular, and past opposition to this kind of legislation in other states has largely relied on fear-mongering and half-truths.

Stay informed on the progress of the “Missouri Tuition Equity Act,” and the similar legislation here.