Legislative column

There were an estimated 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011 according to a population report from the Department of Homeland Security.

The survey defines an unauthorized resident immigrant population as “all foreign-born non-citizens who are not legal residents… unauthorized residents either entered the United States without inspection or were admitted temporarily and stayed past the date they were required to leave.” A significant amount of the U.S. immigrant population has entered the country illegally and continues to pose problems for the lawful residents of our country.

I see this as a problem. This coming session I will be introducing legislation making it a class B felony for any unauthorized alien to re-enter, attempt to re-enter or be found in Missouri after he or she has been removed from the country.

Let me be clear — I am not against immigrants coming to America to better their lives. Our great country was built by immigrants, and the American Dream is still as worthy a goal as ever for foreigners looking to create a life here. As long as people entering the country follow the law and go through the appropriate measures to gain citizenship, then I believe they do contribute to our economy, culture and society as a whole. What I do take issue with, however, are the millions of unauthorized immigrants who have entered the United States illegally, many of whom have malicious and criminal aspirations.

A report published by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates there were 70,000 unauthorized immigrants living in Missouri in 2011. This is a problem that needs to be addressed and my proposed legislation will become part of a solution to combat this issue.

I believe my upcoming Senate bill is especially pertinent for our state this year as the issue of undocumented immigration continues to mount in importance across the nation. Just this past Monday, a federal appeals court ruled against President Obama’s plan to shield unauthorized immigrants from deportation, according to a Washington Post article by David Nakamura. The blocked executive action would have allowed undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to remain in the country and receive temporary work permits, rather than be deported for breaking immigration laws. 

I appreciate your support, and will continue to fight for legal Missouri workers. I feel strongly about ensuring the inherent rights each and every lawful Missourian is entitled to and will take action against harmful unauthorized immigration within our great state.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or visit www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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