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The Springfield City Council discussed Monday whether or not to pass an ordinance requiring every Springfield business to use the E-Verify program. KSMU's Samuel Crowe reports.
The Ozarks Minutemen is a group made up of citizens who say they're trying to prevent illegal immigrants from further hurting the local economy. Jerry Wilson is a spokesman for the Minutemen, and shed some light on what the E-Verify program does for businesses.
“E-Verify is a free online program operated by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Its purpose is to confirm a person’s eligibility to work the United States, not to determine their immigration status,” Wilson said.
Several supporters of a mandatory E-Verify ordinance spoke at the public hearing. They say that it removes any possibility of discrimination when hiring. Supporters also believe that E-Verify protects the integrity of the Social Security System. Wilson and the rest of the Minutemen say they've seen the adverse effects of illegal employees elsewhere.
“Most of us who are in this group have lived in cities where there have been large populations of illegal aliens, and we’ve seen firsthand what that does to the economy, the community, and the way of life,” Wilson said.
But the opposition at the public hearing argued just this: that many of the Minutemen don’t even live or work within the city limits, yet they want to thrust their political agenda onto the Springfield taxpayers. Esteban Alvarez has lived legally in Springfield for 10 years, and says what little money the city and its taxpayers have should be spent on more serious issues, ones that have been a part of the community for a long time.
“Why I’m concerned is we are willing to spend thousands of dollars with tax payers money here in Springfield for this, instead of fighting such a thing as household abuse or meth consumption,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez, and others in opposition to the law, argue that it’s not the city’s place to police the federal government. He fears that it will send a bad message to current and future businesses here in Springfield that immigrants aren’t welcome. And that worries Alvarez, because he says the Latino population, which comprises three percent of Springfield, is misunderstood. He says the few immigrants who have moved here did so to escape the social problems of larger cities, not bring them to Springfield.
“I cannot guess how many illegals are here. I don’t think personally, this is just a personal opinion, I don’t think that it’s a major issue. This is not the border in Texas or California. The reason why I’m here is I got a little surprised of how this started to stir up the community, because honestly I’m excited when I see a latino because we are not many here,” Alvarez said.
The City Council will meet on September 2nd to vote on whether to pass the ordinance or to let residents decide its fate at the polls.For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.