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Why Do Missourians Care About Immigration Reform?

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Back in June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the immigration reform bill calling for beefed up border control and new guidelines for obtaining citizenship.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Back in June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the immigration reform bill calling for beefed up border control and new guidelines for obtaining citizenship.

But the House of Representatives hasn't agreed yet on its own legislation. 

examines the issue of immigration policy here at home where just two percent of Missouri residents are not naturalized citizens.

In a state that's more than 800 miles from the closest border, why do people in Missouri care about immigration reform? Some say it's about jobs.

"It's hard not to think there's got to be someone else who is taking that job from me," says Mary Giovagnoli of the Immigration Policy Center.

Giovagnoli says it's a misconception that undocumented immigrants steal jobs from native-born citizens.

"When you look at the evidence, it turns out that immigrants and native-born workers generally have very complimentary work patterns and skills. Statistically, you don't see a lot of competition."

To Senator Roy Blunt, the key to immigration reform is three-fold.

"One is how do you secure the border. Two is what are the legitimate workforce needs of the country. And three is what do you do with people who came illegally or stayed illegally."

But Congressman Jason Smith (R-8th Dist.) believes one thing takes priority.

"You need to secure the borders before you even talk about any type of immigration reform."

But Giovagnoli says that would be a mistake.

"You can focus on one side, but that means everything else is probably not fixed. You have to be thinking about all of the pieces at the same time."

A new poll shows the majority of Americans want a comprehensive bill that tackles both border security and a path to citizenship. But for now, the legislation is idle, until Congress returns from summer recess.


Macy Jenkins for KOLR 10 News
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