Missouri State Senator looks to expand ban on sanctuary policies in cities and counties

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Springfield Republican Senator Eric Burlison says the 2009 law making sanctuary policies illegal for cities across Missouri didn't go far enough.

"Unfortunately, that did not address the entire scope of the problem."

That law made it that any city with sanctuary polices, or those not cooperating with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), would not get any state grants and other monies.

Now, Burlison wants to make the law include counties from being able to adopt those policies.

Burlison says his bill is a response to a triple homicide in Springfield in October. One of the suspects, Luis Perez, was let go by New Jersey police after ICE was holding him there to be deported for a long list of criminal charges.

Perez was released last February, two months after being detained. Middlesex County in New Jersey had recently adopted a policy limiting their cooperation with ICE.

"Unfortunately, I can't stop the idiocracy that's happening in other states, but we can make sure that we're not going to be causing problems for other Missouri counties and other Missouri cities," Burlison said.

Several people spoke against the bill during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

"Senate Bill 64 is yet another piece of devastating enforcement legislation that serves to institutionalize racism and discrimination in our state," said Sarah John, St Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America.

"There are a lot of undocumented folks who are doing good things that are important for the economy. No one is suggesting we want criminals to roam the streets. No one is suggesting we want murderers to go free," said Andrew Fitzgerald, Missouri Immigrant & Refugee Advocates. "What we're afraid of is in the wider context of this, what we're seeing is a bill that wants to propose justice is really creating a wider injustice."

Burlison says this is about restoring the rule of law, not about discrimination.

"We also need to make sure we have a system in place that we're able to deal with people that do not respect this nation, that do wish to inflict harm on it's citizens," Burlison said.

No vote was taken in committee, but we will continue to follow this as it works through the legislative process.