STL Post-Dispatch: Missouri Senate again targets deportees in crime bill

JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Senate is again trying to create the crime of “illegal reentry” in the state.

Under legislation now advancing to the House, if a person is deported from the United States for committing a crime and then returns and commits a felony, they also would be guilty of illegal reentry in Missouri. 

The offense would be a class C felony, punishable by three to seven years.

The measure won approval Thursday on a 27-6 vote. Similar legislation moved through the Senate last year, but was not approved in the House and failed to become law

Opponents of the measure, including state Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, argued that immigration policy is under the federal government’s purview.

“This policy puts illegal immigrants who have broken the law into our Missouri penal system at a cost of over $20,000 per year per criminal,” Schupp said. “The people of Missouri should not be forced to pick up the tab for the failures of the federal government.”

Sen. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, said the measure won’t solve the problem of illegal immigration and will cost taxpayers unknown amounts of money to house the criminals in state prisons.

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

As an example of what he is attempting to target, Cunningham pointed to Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, a Mexican citizen who was deported in 2004 but later reentered the country illegally. He is accused in the 2016 killing of four men in Kansas City, Kan., before driving to New Florence and killing another man.

“They could come in and do harm to the people of Missouri,” Cunningham said.

The legislation is Senate Bill 34.

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