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Bill Eigel vows mass jailing, removal of undocumented immigrants from Missouri

State Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring, a candidate for governor, speaks Thursday evening at the Boone County Republican Lincoln Days dinner in Columbia.
(Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent)
Missouri Independent
State Sen. Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring, a candidate for governor, speaks Thursday evening at the Boone County Republican Lincoln Days dinner in Columbia.

State Sen. Bill Eigel promised Thursday that if elected governor he’d invoke a provision in the Missouri Constitution allowing him to call out the militia to round up and deport undocumented immigrants.

That means mobilizing sheriffs, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the National Guard, Eigel told a crowd of about 175 party faithful at the Boone County Lincoln Days event in Columbia.

“I’m also the only candidate for governor that’s gonna go after every one of the 50,000 to 70,000 illegal immigrants that are bringing crime into our community,” Eigel said, later adding: “And if I have to drive the buses myself to the border of this country, we’re going to take our state back, folks.”

Eigel, a Weldon Spring lawmaker who is one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for governor, is trying to stake out the most strident position on immigration, an issue dominating GOP politics. His rhetoric Thursday was echoed by one of his rivals for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who when asked about the idea during an interview following the event said “until we stop the invasion, we can’t deal with the problem effectively.”

Ashcroft said he, too, would declare the influx of immigrants an invasion.

The other major Republican candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, did not attend Thursday’s party gathering.

Contacted by email, his spokesman did not address questions about whether it was proper to declare an invasion of Missouri or to order mass removal, instead boasting about Kehoe’s trip to the Mexican border with members of state national guard.

“Mike Kehoe takes action from the front-lines, not from behind a keyboard and Twitter account,” said Michael Hafner, a spokesman for Kehoe’s campaign.

Kehoe is visiting the approximately 250 National Guard soldiers already in Texas operating under federal orders. Gov. Mike Parson has ordered 200 soldiers and 11 Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers to work with Texas law enforcement at the request of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Parson has asked lawmakers for $2.2 million to cover the cost.

If Eigel’s plan were to be activated, it would be the second time in state history that a governor has ordered the mass removal of people based on a social or cultural characteristic.

In 1838, Gov. Lilburn Boggs issued the infamous “Extermination Order” calling out the militia to drive Mormons from the state.

“The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description,” Boggs wrote in his orders to Gen. John B. Clark.

In all, 15,000 people fled the state, most going to Illinois, and property losses were estimated at $1 million to $2 million, equal to as much as $70 million today.

The order against Mormons wasn’t officially canceled until 1976, when Republican Gov. Kit Bond wrote a recission order that stated, “Boggs’ order clearly contravened the rights to life, liberty, property and religious freedom” and apologized “for the injustice and undue suffering” it caused.

In an interview, Eigel said he was not worried about the logistics of feeding, housing and providing for other basic needs of the thousands he would take into custody.

“We have jails across the state that can serve as holding facilities,” Eigel said.

He also said he is unconcerned about the cost.

Of all the potential problems, he said, “one of them certainly is not that we don’t have enough money to take care of that fact. I’m pretty sure that we have the surplus necessary to buy a fleet of buses that we’re going to use to actually transport these individuals.”

Eight candidates have filed so far for the GOP nomination for governor and three – Eigel, Ashcroft and Kehoe – are running full-scale campaigns.

Ashcroft didn’t address immigration directly in his speech. Instead, he focused on his crusade to stop “pornography” in libraries and block foreign ownership of farmland.

In 2013, lawmakers passed a bill that made it possible for a Chinese food processing conglomerate to purchase Smithfield Foods and its 40,000 acres of Missouri farmland. More recently, lawmakers who voted for the bill have been harshly criticized as China is viewed more and more as a global economic and military adversary.

Last year, Ashcfoft said, the Missouri Senate couldn’t advance a bill repealing the law allowing foreign ownership of up to 1% of the state’s agricultural land. So, he said, he worked to pass a bill through the Missouri House that cut that percentage in half.

In the Senate, a provision was added that exempted farmland purchased for development or other nonfarm uses, including “raising genetic traits that are used for human or animal research,” as long as no farming occurred on the land.

Ashcroft said that was a horrible provision.

“Our state Senate voted to amend it to allow any foreign country to buy as much of our land as they want and even to use it specifically for human genetic testing,” Ashcroft said. “That’s the problem in Jefferson City.”

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