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Protesters Rally Against Proposed Ordinance

Dozens of men and women rallied outside the Busch Municipal Building late Tuesday morning in protest of a possible ordinance that would target illegal immigrants who try to get a job.  KSMU’s Justin Lux was there and has more.

Francie Wolff is well-versed in the effects of racial issues.

“My father was an immigrant from Nazi Germany so I know what happens when hate prevails,” Wolff says.

Wolff was one of the many protesters onhand and says the idea of such racial tensions coming to Springfield is too much to handle.

“If it’s in my own hometown then I literally, I get shudders. I mean it’s scary,” she explains.

But Jerry Wilson and the other members of the Ozark Minutemen, who put forth the initiative petition, strongly disagree that it’s an issue of racism.

“The purpose of the E-Verify system is to confirm a person’s eligibility to work in the United States, not to determine their immigration status,” Wilson says.

If City Council passes the ordinance as-is, a business that is found employing an ineligible worker will face a suspension of their business license or a fine, depending on the offense.

According to Wilson, the Minutemen don’t have the intention of preventing members of minority races from working in the city.

“What we hope is that every person who is hired by the city of Springfield is legally eligible to work in the United States and E-Verify will accomplish that,” he explains.

Joe Robless, a second-generation Mexican-American and a small business owner, says he feels the petition is an attack on small business owners.

 “They forget that of the 12,000 businesses in our area about 9,000 of them have less than 7 employees and that includes their part time employees,” Robless points out.

Robless says small business owners like himself, who work 60-80 hours a week, just don’t have the time nor resources to handle all of the administrative charges that could result. However, he also raises questions about the racial implications.

 “They’re attacking roofers and restaurants. I think their quote is, ‘Hey, look up there on the roof. Who is it?’ Now what’s that tell ya?  It’s a veiled attempt, it’s going to be based on color,” he warns.

Meanwhile, Jerry Wilson of the Ozark Minutemen claims as long as you operate within the rules your business should remain unharmed.

“There’s quite a bit of room in E-Verify for errors that might be made and that sort of thing, but what there’s not a lot of room for is the intentional hiring of a illegal alien,” Wilson says.

The Ozark Minutemen say their intention is to prevent illegal immigrants from hurting the local economy.

Opponents of the ordinance cite the city’s Vision 20/20 and civility programs as reasons why the City Council should reject it.  The projects call for tolerance and inclusion, as well as a diverse, vibrant and welcoming Springfield. 

For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.

Anchor Tag:  At its Tuesday lunch meeting, Springfield City Council discussed the bill further.  Right now, its options include passing the ordinance as-is, sending it to the voters in the Spring, or passing it with the intention of amending it later.  Council plans to take action at its next meeting.