A federal judge has agreed with four business owners in Springfield, Mo., when he signed a preliminary injunction against the city's new E-Verify ordinance. Two months ago, voters approved an ordinance requiring all businesses in the city use the E-Verify system. KOLR reports several city council meetings heard angry and concerned citizens on both sides of the issue. The ballot initiative was approved by 221 votes in early February.
The initiative to have an E-Verify system for all city businesses was started by the Ozarks Minutemen. More than 2,100 signatures were presented to the Springfield City Council. By law, the governing body had two choices. The council could either approve the ordinance as it was written in the petition or send it to a vote of the people.
The wording of the ordinance was specific. All employers doing business in Springfield would be required to use the system to check if employees are legally able to work in the United States. For multiple violations, companies can be shut down permanently. The ordinance stated anyone who makes money in the city is required to use the system which would include babysitters, lawn care workers and anyone self-employed.
One aspect of the ordinance admittedly violated federal law. The language stated the E-Verify system would also have to be done for existing employees. Enforcement would be done on a complaint basis.
The municipal election was held Feb. 7. Voter turnout was 14.6 percent on the controversial issue. Voters approved the E-Verify measure 8,247 to 8,026. The votes were certified Feb. 21. The ordinance was set to go into effect June 4.
U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr issued the injunction May 10, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Three local businesses and a businessman are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Positronics Inc., John Oke-Thomas & Associates, Stenger Management LLC and Joe Robles filed the complaint.
City leaders already said the measure was illegal for several reasons before and after the election. By reason of a technicality, the city must defend the ordinance in court and will have additional legal fees. City leaders agreed to the temporary injunction. Once the lawsuit is decided, the ordinance will be allowed to continue or be permanently off the books.
Ozarks Minutemen spokesman Jerry Wilson admitted to the newspaper parts of the ordinance had legal problems. He was also surprised local businesses and not outside advocacy groups sued to have the ordinance removed.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.
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