Preliminary approval has been given by the state Senate to a proposal that would charge those entering Missouri without legal immigration status with a Class “C” felony if they are accused of any other felony or assault. That would carry a 1 to 7 year prison sentence. Senator Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville) says the federal government isn’t doing its job in immigration enforcement.

Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville)

Sen. Mike Cunningham (R-Rogersville)

“The feds aren’t dealing with the situation. That’s quite evident,” said Cunningham. “They turned loose 129 people that committed murder after they turned them loose.”

Senator Jill Schupp (D- Creve Coeur) says immigration issues are up to the federal government, not the state.

“This bill, whether the intentions are good or not, whether we are trying to prevent crimes from people who would enter this country undocumented, is not within our purview and is therefore unconstitutional,” said Schupp.

Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) voiced the same sentiment.

“I’d say the U.S. Constitution is pretty clear about who has authority to regulate immigration in the United States,” said Keaveny. “I don’t understand why we want to try and do it at the state level. We can’t enforce most of the stuff that we’ve already got on the books.”

Cunningham disagrees with those arguments.

“I don’t know what the courts are going to rule on it. I did submit it to three different immigration lawyers. Their opinion is that it’s constitutional and it doesn’t change federal law,” said Cunningham.

One more favorable vote would send the measure to the House.