STL Post-Dispatch: ‘Illegal reentry’ of deportees would be new crime under measure advanced by Missouri Senate

By Jack Suntrup St. Louis Post-Dispatch
JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Senate voted Thursday to create the crime of “illegal reentry” in the state.

The legislation states that anyone who is deported from the United States for committing a crime, returns and commits an assault or any felony would also be guilty of illegal reentry in Missouri.

The offense would be a class C felony. Custody of the person convicted would be transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “as soon as practical.”

The Senate voted 26-6 to advance the measure to the House, with Democratic Sens. Scott Sifton of Affton and Jason Holsman of Kansas City siding with the Republican majority.

One of the main opponents of the measure was state Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. She said that the bill is unconstitutional because immigration policy is under the federal government’s purview.

“We know crime happens, but that doesn’t mean we need to put into place laws that are unconstitutional,” Schupp said in an interview. “Missourians’ taxpayer dollars are going to be going to court fights instead of all the other important needs we have in the state.”

Republican state Sen. Mike Cunningham of Rogersville, the bill sponsor, said that federal government inaction on immigration policy is what spurred the bill.

“Why I filed it was because the federal government wasn’t doing their job and it was a chance for the state to stand up,” he said.

Cunningham said that he’s received legal opinions that argue the law is constitutional.

Schupp also said that a patchwork of state laws concerning immigration would be problematic. She added the legislation follows other ideas in the Legislature that makes Missouri appear anti-immigrant.

Cunningham didn’t dispute that the state is unwelcoming — at least when it comes to the people his proposal applies to.

He used an example out of New Florence, Mo., last month. Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino is a Mexican citizen who was deported in 2004 but later reentered the country illegally. He is accused of killing four men in Kansas City, Kan., before driving to New Florence and killing another man.

“Hell yes we’re unwelcoming to those people that break the law that abuse,” Cunningham said in an interview. “I mean, they’ve committed felonies before.”

The measure now heads to the House for consideration.

The legislation is Senate Bill 612.

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