Jefferson City, Mo. — The Missouri Senate Interim Committee on Illegal Immigration conducted its first meeting Wednesday morning to examine varying aspects of illegal immigration and its effects on the Show-Me State.
The goal of the Interim Committee is to understand and identify ways to discourage illegal immigration and capture revenues the state is missing from the underground economy. Committee members also plan to look into the abuses of out-of-state companies bringing illegal immigrants into Missouri to work without paying state taxes or obeying Missouri’s labor laws.
The formation of the committee comes after Senator Lincoln Hough added $100,000 to the Department of Labor’s budget earlier this year to begin addressing the issues the committee is looking to solve.
The committee heard from many witnesses who have seen these issues first hand, people who work to solve them or have to compete against them.
“I became involved when Scott Faughn found an apartment complex in Saint Charles being built entirely by illegal immigrants,” Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis stated. “They would work all day long, long hours, and get paid entirely under the table at ridiculous wages. This is slave labor.”
Rep. Murphy and some members of the committee questioned as to why the Missouri Department of Labor was not doing more to help solve these issues. Going to question if they even had the authority to do anything to solve them, pointing to a perceived lack of action in response to the issue that was brought up in Saint Charles.
“The paperwork I know can be very complex, but the physical work seems fairly easy to unwind,” Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Jackson County, said.
A private drywall contractor testified about how difficult it is to compete with big companies and general contractors who exploit illegal workers. This contractor pays over $31 an hour with benefits but held the sentiment that hiring workers is harder than ever, especially with the labor shortage the United States is facing.
“Good Missouri contractors are being put at advantage due to other contractors exploiting people trying to better their lives,” Sen. Doug Beck. D-St. Louis County said.
Legislators brainstormed ideas designed to minimize the monetary loss of illegal immigration and business exploitation. Illegal immigration cost Missouri $365 million last year, an expert witness stated.
A specific solution, called E-Verify, was debated among the committee and witnesses. E-Verify is a federal web-based system used by other states that allow enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States,
The committee is made up of six senators. Led by Chairman Justin Brown, the other members include Vice Chairman Sen. Mike Cierpiot (R-Jackson County), Sen. Doug Beck (D-St. Louis County), and Sen. Mike Bernskoetter (R-Cole County), Sen. Karla Eslinger (R-West Plains), and Sen. Barbara Washington (D-Jackson County). Senator Brown is steadily looking for ways to spend the $100,000 put in by Senator Hough, for enforcement purposes.
Brown has already faced backlash for his desire to lead the committee in Missouri, being called a racist by multiple people who disagree with the committee.
“The state is not getting any benefit. The illegals are. The people who bring them here are. The companies who hire them are. But the state isn’t,” Brown said. “The state is being cheated out of tax revenue and nothing is being paid into unemployment or workers’ compensation.”
“If a dip in the economy comes as projected, we need to protect Missouri employers and employees who follow the rules and do the right thing, rather than protect and conceal those who don’t,” Brown added.
The next meeting is set to be held on July 20th, with more information regarding the time to be released at a later date.
Brady Hays is a student at the University of Missouri, and plans on graduating in 2023 with a major in Political Science and a minor is History. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree he plans on attending law school, though he is still undecided on where to attend. He has been working for the Missouri Times since early March 0f 2022.