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Mo. immigrant advocacy groups on Arizona's mostly-nixed law

Immigrant advocacy groups in Missouri say that while they are pleased the US Supreme Court struck down most of a controversial Arizona immigration policy, they remain concerned about a provision that had the support of the justices.

The five-to-three ruling on Monday allowed Arizona law enforcement officials to check the papers of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. Opponents say that will lead to biased policing.

St. Louis County police chief Tim Fitch says the policy simply undermines the trust that is essential to solving crimes.

"If unfortunately a situation happens in your family, and a loved one is killed for example, and an immigrant witnesses this crime, wouldn't you want that immigrant to step forward to [law enforcement], and share this information and not have a fear that they're going to be deported?" Fitch said.

Fitch says he is aware that some police departments in North St. Louis County are engaging in this kind of profiling. He says he disapproves of the practice, but has no control over their policies.

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Joan Suarez with Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates says she hopes Monday's ruling makes blocking any Missouri legislation resembling the Arizona measure easier. The groups say that while those bills have been introduced almost every year since 2003, they've never made it to Governor Jay Nixon's desk.

"I would think that what the Supreme Court has done would hopefully send a message to our that this is not the kind of thing that's going to carry sway in Missouri, or for that matter before the Supreme Court," Suarez said.

The groups also hope to strengthen Missouri's anti racial-profiling law this session, which starts in January.

 

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

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Rachel Lippmann
Lippmann returned to her native St. Louis after spending two years covering state government in Lansing, Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and followed (though not directly) in Maria Altman's footsteps in Springfield, also earning her graduate degree in public affairs reporting. She's also done reporting stints in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas. Rachel likes to fill her free time with good books, good friends, good food, and good baseball.