A Q&A With State Rep. Mark Parkinson, Supporter of an Arizona-style Immigration Law for Missouri

click to enlarge Mark Parkinson: "95 percent of my constituents wanted me to get tough on illegal immigration" - Image via
Mark Parkinson: "95 percent of my constituents wanted me to get tough on illegal immigration"
Last week, Daily RFT reported on HB 2449, a bill introduced in the state House of Representatives that would stiffen penalties for people who "harbor" undocumented immigrants in Missouri and make it "unlawful for any illegal alien to transport himself or herself within the state of Missouri."

The sponsor of the bill is Rep. Mark Parkinson, a Republican from St. Charles. In an interview last Friday, Parkinson said that he has a drafted a substitute for the bill that is "identical" to the controversial law enacted recently in Arizona. We also discussed the potential ramifications of a such a law in Missouri and why he thinks it's necessary.

Why did you introduce this legislation?

It's just some more stiffer penalties for being here in the state of Missouri if you're an illegal. To me it's an economic issue. If you're here illegally you're taking a job. That's the main magnet if you're coming to Missouri. if we can eliminate as many of those magnets as possible we'll have fewer illegals. The vast majority are taking jobs at substandard wages. With the economy struggling to come back and unemployment at about ten percent, I want to make sure the people who are employed in Missouri are first and foremost citizens. If we have a surplus of jobs they can go through federal programs to come here and work.

What about the argument that most of the jobs undocumented immigrants are working are low-paying ones that the average unemployed American doesn't want?

That's a ludicrous argument. Americans may not do those jobs at that wage but obviously with supply and demand being in effect, if an employer cant fill that particular position or job at that wage he's going to have to raise what he's paying until it attracts enough people to come take that job. Americans won't take that job at that wage but they'll take it at a better one.

Won't that drive up the cost of a lot of goods and services?

I'd rather pay a little bit more at the local store knowing that my neighbor is employed rather than have my taxes going to support him when he's not. You're either paying a little bit more for a product or you're paying a little bit more for taxes to sustain him when he's not employed.

Is this inspired by the Arizona law and how do you feel about Arizona's new immigration law?

Depends which one [of my bills] you're talking about. The bill I filed was filed on April 1 which was even before I knew anything about the Arizona law. It deals with an issue we needed to stiffen up that we passed in 2008. Then I heard about the issue they had going on in Arizona. I have a house committee substitute drafted that mirrors the Arizona law. The original bill was not written with Arizona in mind. The house committee substitute is identical [to Arizona's law.] It hasn't been done yet. It's obviously too late in the legislative session to get it passed this year anyway.

How about the widespread belief the Arizona law encourages racial profiling?

It's completely unfounded. Here in Missouri you have to produce a birth certificate to obtain a driver's license in the first place. A driver's license basically equates to a birth certificate. Federal law says if you're here on a green card or a work visa you have to carry you paperwork with you anyway. More than likely the people who can't produce the paperwork are here illegally. The first thing that a police officer does anyway when you get pulled over is ask you for your papers. It's an asinine argument.

If you're here legally on student visa or work visa, the officer asks you for paperwork you show it to him and off you go. The main premise why they're upset with the state of Arizona is a lot of the law mirrors the federal law that's already on the books. They realize that federal law is not enforced. A lot of these folks are scared the status quo will change and this will be enforced on the state level because the federal government has dropped the ball. The state is going to do something about it.

Are you worried that Missouri might get the same kind of blowback that Arizona has received? It's possible Major League Baseball will move the All-Star Game from Phoenix. Some estimates have them losing hundreds of thousands of dollars from conventions and that sort of thing boycotting the state.

There's boycotts and, what do they call them, buycotts. You know, they're temporary. If you get enough help and support for your proposals to fight against them, it's overall a net neutrality on the impact to the economy. Look at Whole Foods. They had a buycott or something like that done to them and they actually saw their sales go up.

How many illegal immigrants do you think there are in the district you represent in St. Charles?

This is one of the questions I do for my legislative survey. One of my questions dealt with the illegal immigration issue. I was astonished that 95 percent of my constituents wanted me to get tough on illegal immigration. It's tough to get 95 people in a room and get them to agree that the wall is brown, let alone get them to agree on illegal immigration. I'm doing this because my constituents want me to.
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