For 10 Immigrants, St. Louis Is Home — and Citizenship Is Now Theirs

Categories: Immigration

Photo by Shelby Kardell
Adetola Olayefun, who became a U.S. citizen on June 12.

A gleaming white smile breaks across Adetola "Tola" Olayefun's face as a stream of five elementary-age boys and girls stroll into the burnt red courtroom rotunda. These children, accompanied by several teachers, are from St. John School in Ellisville, where Olayefun works as a janitor.

They've come to celebrate Olayefun's new United States citizenship.

Olayefun, a native of Nigeria, was selected along with nine other immigrants to participate in the June 12 Naturalization Ceremony at the Old Courthouse downtown. U.S. District Court Judge John A. Ross presided over the event.

- See also: Slideshow: Meet 6 of St. Louis' Newest Citizens

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Trouble on the U.S. Borders Means Missouri Asylum Seekers are Sometimes Stuck in Limbo

Categories: Immigration

Brian Stauffer

In this week's feature, "Asylum Insanity," author Keegan Hamilton explores the convoluted process that asylum seekers go through when they show up at the U.S. border requesting sanctuary. As Hamilton reports this can sometimes mean long stretches of time in detention centers:

"It's really tragic," says Amelia Wilson, staff attorney for the American Friends Service Committee, a faith-based organization that aids asylum seekers. "They're fleeing persecution, and many of them have just fled institutions of incarceration in their home country. Through guile or luck or the right contacts, they manage to get out of their country. They come here, and they're promptly detained. They're shocked. They're not criminals. In fact, they're following the legal procedure the government has put in place for them to get protection."

Read the full report here.

Here in Missouri, asylum seekers face different challenges: We are not a border state, nor are we home to a large international travel hub. Here's the situation closer to home.

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St. Louis Bosnians Meet With Police, Talk Public Safety After Two Tragic Immigrant Shootings

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Haris Gogic.
Two of the recent high-profile shootings in the city of St. Louis shared a common, tragic thread: immigrant who came here for a better life becoming victims of senseless, random violence.

Haris Gogic, a nineteen-year-old Bosnian immigrant was shot and killed inside his convenience store on May 31 right in front of his older brother. That robber was later arrested and charged in the tragic shooting that killed Gogic, injured his brother and earned the suspect about $30 in cash. Just a week later, Mon Rai, a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, was killed working the night shift in a St. Louis 7-Eleven. That suspect remains unknown and on the loose, and Rai's widow just gave birth this week to their baby daughter who will grow up in St. Louis without a father.

Members of the local Bosnian community in St. Louis are speaking out against the violence that some worry will encourage immigrants to leave the city -- or discourage them from moving here in the first place.

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Voter ID Bill Heads to House Floor: Missouri's Most Partisan, Divisive Legislation?

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There are few bills in Missouri that are so divisive and so precisely divided along party lines. But a proposed photo ID requirement for voting has state lawmakers locked in a clear partisan battle where all members on both sides will remain loyal. So says Representative Stanley Cox, one of two Republicans behind the legislation, which is expected to be taken up on the House floor today.

The voter ID bills have been speedily moving forward this session, sparking a fair amount of controversy at each step of the process.

"I don't know of any other legislation that is like this," Cox tells Daily RFT.

What makes the proposal so unique?

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Undocumented Immigrants: Illinois Driver's License Bill Now Law, Fourth State With Policy

Categories: Immigration, News

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Illinois law now officially says that undocumented immigrants can legally obtain driver's licenses -- a big win for advocacy groups that argue the change is a boost for public safety and law enforcement on the roads.

Lawrence Benito, an Illinois immigration advocate, tells Daily RFT that this new policy means that hundreds of thousands of drivers in the state will be able to apply for temporary licenses. This includes immigrants just across the Mississippi River who may frequently travel to St. Louis.

And even though Missouri does not have this kind of law on the books, once immigrants receive these licenses, they will be able to drive to the state like any other licensed driver.

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Jail Transcript Between Encarnacion Bail and Laura Davenport

Categories: Immigration

The transcript linked below depicts a conversation recorded September 19, 2007, by officials at the St. Clair County Jail in Osceola, Missouri, which is referenced in this week's feature story, The Battle of Carthage.

The two participants are Encarnación Bail (EB), who was incarcerated pending a trial on federal immigration charges, and Laura Davenport (LD), a bilingual child-development worker in the Carthage school district's Parents as Teachers program.

Davenport had received a supervisor's approval to make the 90-mile trip to drop off a birth certificate application for Bail, so that Bail's son Carlos could be made eligible for government-subsidized immunizations and infant formula.

But as the transcript shows, Davenport did not mention the application at any time during her hour-long visit with Bail. Instead she focused almost exclusively on trying to persuade Bail to give up her baby for adoption.

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What Do Missourians Really Think of Immigrants?

C'mon in, huddled masses!
A new study by researchers at Saint Louis University looks at how Missourians feel about immigrants living in our state. Turns out, we hew pretty closely to the national conversation, and our feelings break down somewhat predictably by political party affiliation. There are some interesting differences in perceptions on either end of the Show-Me State, too.

"We tried to get an empirical idea of what people think about immigration," says Dr. Onesimo Sandoval, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at SLU, and one of the study's lead authors.

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Wanna Be on the Presidential Ballot in Missouri? We Need to See Your Birth Certificate, Please

Can we just lay the rumors to rest that Barack Obama is not an American citizen? He was born in Hawaii in 1961 -- two years after it became a state. Not Kenya. Hawaii. Even Glenn Beck has shut up about this, maybe because the claims are so ridiculous the Supreme Court doesn't want to waste its time.

image via
Here it is. Can you see where it says "City, Town or Location of Birth: Honolulu"? Can we get back to talking about more important things now, like how our economy is still in the shitter?
But apparently that's not good enough for some members of the House Elections Committee out in Jefferson City who proposed a bill yesterday that would require anyone who wants to appear on the Missouri Presidential ballot to produce proof of citizenship. We are the bellwether, remember! Except for 2008, you couldn't win without us! Is it coincidental that that was the year Obama won?

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English-Only Driver's License Tests in Missouri? House Committee Says Yes

Categories: Immigration
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A committee of the Missouri House of Representatives has approved a bill requiring that driver's license testing be conducted in English -- and only in English -- sending the measure on to the full House for its vote.

The House Transportation Committee yesterday voted 8-3 for the bill, following strict party lines, the Post-Dispatch reports. (And, yep, that means every Republican on the committee voted yes, which means the bill a decent shot of passage in the GOP-dominated House.)

A similar effort failed in the Missouri House last year. reports that nine states currently limit drivers' testing to English -- but a host of states are considering similar bills to the Missouri proposal, including Montana, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Georgia.More »

KETC/Channel 9 Trying to Create a "Safe Place" for Immigration Debate. Good Luck with That.

Categories: Immigration
KETC/Channel 9, the local PBS affiliate in St. Louis, is surveying members for their views on immigration -- part of a new project called "Homeland," which the station hopes will create a "safe place where the community can come together to determine how to best deal with immigration."

Our first thought: Dear God, are they insane??!?!?

Admittedly, the views of this writer may be colored her five-plus years spent in the angry belly of the immigration wars: Phoenix, Arizona. But it's not just Phoenix, clearly. Even stories that the RFT has published here in St. Louis about the difficulties faced by illegal immigrants have generated serious vitriol. If you so much as suggest there should be a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, you're sure to receive a barrage of angry comments (and generally at least one suggestion that you deserve to be a raped by a quote-unquote "wetback").

But that's exactly what Homeland wants to combat, says Amy Shaw, KETC's vice president of education and community engagement.

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