An effort pushed by a Lee's Summit lawmaker to tighten Missouri laws involving immigration and children is receiving a mixed reception within the education community, including in Monett.
Eighth District State Senator Will Kraus, from Lee's Summit, is sponsoring a bill that would require public schools in the state to verify the immigration status of students.
Law enforcement officers would be required to check the immigration status of subjects during all stops where reasonable cause is shown. Those without adequate documentation for citizenship would face a misdemeanor.
Kraus' bill is similar to legislation passed in Arizona and Alabama. The Justice Department has blocked enforcement of the law in Alabama.
Kraus' bill would require schools to ask for birth certificates or proof of legal immigration. Schools would be banned from allowing children to attend if the children or their parents lack documentation.
According to Kraus, the lack of a federal resolution to the immigration issue puts the financial burden on states. Kraus said most state agencies have no idea of the cost of illegal immigration. Last year, Kraus pushed similar legislation in an effort to get Attorney General Chris Koster to sue the federal government to recoup costs for enforcing federal immigration laws.
Dr. John Jungmann, Monett R-1 School District superintendent, said injecting enforcement issues on the schools raises other concerns for local leaders.
"I would have great concern with any legislation that put school officials in charge of collecting immigration information on our students," Jungmann said. "Schools are here to educate the students who live in our district, and we should not be forced to assume the role of immigration officers or the police.
"The courts have ruled over and over that the school must educate any student who lives within the boundaries of our district, no matter if they are residing in the United States legally or not," Jungmann said.
A documented side effect of the Alabama law was the flight of Hispanics from the state.
"Any law that would jeopardize a district's ability to communicate with students and families by making them fear that the school would be turning them in to authorities could undoubtedly have a negative impact on our district and the students who attend our schools," Jungmann added.