Minor traffic violations do not usually warrant a press release from a governor. But when state police stopped a van on a Missouri road for “following too closely” and found it was carrying 10 presumed illegal immigrants, Gov. Matt Blunt was quick to tout the incident as part of a new state program to hunt down undocumented aliens.
“We will make every effort, implement every tool, and take every step to ensure the laws against illegal immigration are enforced,” declared Blunt, announcing the arrests as he pursued tough new measures to push undocumented immigrants out of the state.
Missouri’s efforts are among several now being seen around the nation as state and local officials race to make their territory as unappealing as possible for the nation’s estimated 12 million* undocumented individuals.
* It's more like 20 to 30 million -- ed.
The campaign has drawn the ire of religious organizations, civil rights groups and some employers, who argue the actions are unfairly harassing and intimidating both illegal and legal immigrants.
“You’re starting to see this around the country. They’re trying to scare people and they’re saying ‘We don’t want you here,’” said William Sanchez, lead attorney for the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, which has filed suit to stop a new Oklahoma law that became effective Thursday.