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Why Missouri Matters in the Immigration Debate

by Nathan Bogart

Missouri has long been a political and social battleground. Among other distinctions, Missouri was one of the first state sponsors of genocide, waged a border war with Kansas, fought a civil war within the civil war, produced a U.S. president and, more recently, lent its voice to the conference realignment issue plaguing college sports.

Geographically, culturally, politically and meteorologically, Missouri has never been able to come to grips with whether it is a Southern, Northern, Eastern, or Western state.

All things considered, it should not come as a surprise that Missouri has seen its fair share of immigration battles, despite the fact the state is about as far away as one can travel from all of our borders and oceans.

Most recently, headlines have been made as a result of an Alabama-style anti-immigrant bill presented for consideration in the state’s legislature by the Republican Senator out of Lee’s Summit, Will Kraus.

More quirky still is the fallout from the 2008 Minuteman regional conference held in Kansas City. The drama began before the Minutemen even decided to bring their three ring circus to the metro area. Several months before, Kansas City’s mayor, Mark Funkhouser, appointed a Minuteman member, Frances Semler, to the city’s park board.

Protesting the appointment, both the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Council of La Raza decided against bringing their national conferences to Kansas City. The lost revenue from La Raza’s decision alone was estimated at $5 million.

Ms. Semler eventually resigned, but the sideshow did not stop there. Ms. Semler was named one of the key speakers at the Minuteman conference, where she was lauded as a hero.

Protesters gathered, more than 200 strong, to demonstrate outside of the conference center. In 2009, Mayor Funkhouser faced a recall election in part because of the appointment of Ms. Semler. While the recall ultimately failed, it did nothing to limit the Show-Me-State’s reputation as a political powder keg.

Now, the Kansas City Star is reporting the National Council of La Raza is likely to bring its national conference to Kansas City in 2015. This, combined with the aforementioned immigration bill, will ensure immigration’s place as a hot button issue in Missouri for several years to come.

Before you succumb to the temptation to question why any of this matters, consider this: Missouri is the classic swing state, and often reflects the mood of the nation as a whole. Since 1906, Missouri has sided with the losing presidential candidate just twice; 1956 and 2008. In 2008, the margin of victory for John McCain was only .1%.

As we have seen in both presidential elections and preludes to war, the debate in Missouri may be a prediction of how the debate will go throughout the nation as a whole.

Keep your eye on Missouri…

About The Author

Nathan Bogart is the founder of Bogart Immigration Law, LLC and one of the few attorneys in the Midwest whose practice is dedicated solely to immigration law. While in law school, Nathan worked for two years as a law clerk at a Northwest Arkansas firm focusing on immigration matters. Nathan also worked as a student attorney in the University of Arkansas Immigration Clinic representing individuals in immigration proceedings during the final year of his studies. After graduation, Nathan began working at a Rogers, Arkansas firm focusing on removal defense, family petitions, H visas and naturalization.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.