JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The House Speaker wants lawmakers to spend time looking into if there are illegal immigrants committing crimes in Missouri. 

Republicans say in the past year, the problem has only gotten worse, while Democrats say this is a waste of taxpayer resources. House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, who terms out later this year, announced the formation of a new committee Tuesday. He said he hopes this sets the message for the state that if you’re here illegally and committing crimes, you’re going to be detained and deported. 

“We have reports of over 10 million illegal immigrants crossing the border in the last four years; perhaps 70,000 or more are in the state of Missouri,” Plocher said. 

It’s a dominant election-year topic: immigration and the border crisis. 

“It’s election season and this is a way for them to go out and say that they are doing something,” Rep. Emily Weber, D-Kansas City, said. “They are just using it as fear; this is not an issue I believe the state of Missouri needs to be traveling the state for.”

Weber is one of two dozen lawmakers who will sit on the Special Interim Committee on Illegal Immigrant Crimes. She said this move by the speaker is just another election-year tactic since Republican leadership cannot offer substantive data to justify the need for this committee. 

“This isn’t the issue that’s coming up at the doors at all; this isn’t what they [voters] are talking about,” Weber said. “A lot of time, what I hear is gun violence.”

Plocher’s office cited five different instances within the past eight years in a press release that involved people who were in the U.S. illegally. One incident from last month includes five men who were allegedly in the country illegally and were arrested for kidnapping a 14-year-old girl in Indiana. 

Plocher, who is running for secretary of state in a crowded race, said he disagrees with the governor’s recent veto of cutting $6 million for Missouri troops to patrol the southern border. 

“I would certainly not have done that,” Plocher said Tuesday. “I certainly advocate for keeping the Missouri National Guard at the border. I’m continually plagued with questions on what we’re doing about the illegal immigration crisis and the crime that is afflicting our state.”

Parson said back in May the $8 million lawmakers put in the budget was unnecessary and an expense that he didn’t request. Earlier this year, Parson joined a handful of other Republican governors to send troops to the border in response to a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The 200 Missouri National Guard members and 22 Highway Patrol troopers came back to Missouri last month. 

“He vetoed those funds and said this is not what he was asking for,” Weber said. “I feel like this is going back to what our speaker feels this is what is necessary and what he needs to do to win a statewide election.”

Other members on the committee joined Plocher for a press conference Tuesday including committee chairman and former Missouri Public Safety Director Lane Roberts. 

“When you deal with crime, you’re always looking for what causes it. In this case, there is some obvious evidence that there is a nexus between illegal immigration and associated crime,” Roberts said. 

Over the next few weeks, the committee will be holding hearings in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin and Cape Girardeau to talk with law enforcement agencies. The first hearing is set for July 11 in Jefferson City. 

After touring the state, the group plans to submit a report to the General Assembly by the end of the year.