(Springfield, MO) -- The E-Verify initiative goes in front of voters next week.
On Friday, Springfield City Council came out on the offensive, urging voters to vote against the measure.
E-Verify is a free online system that checks a person's eligibility to work in the United States. The initiative would require all businesses licensed by the city to use it.
In a press conference that was billed as an opportunity to clear up some confusion about E-verify, the leaders of the city of Springfield, Mayor Jim O'Neal and the City Council came out swinging, urging votes to vote down the measure.
"I believe this is based on myth," said O'Neal. "Springfield does not have an illegal immigration problem, nor do I think it will have one." He went on to say that passage of the ordinance would impede economic development and cost the city thousands in legal fees when it is challenged.
The city fears costly litigation, and warns that this will ultimately spill in to other parts of the community like rental properties. City leaders say they might as well put sign out that says "you're not welcome"
"This initiative is misguided and will have so many unintended consequences that we will rue the day this passed," added O'Neal.
The strongest words came from Zone 2 City Council member Cindy Rushefsky. She says the initiative is inherently flawed and that the Ozarks Minutemen were told of the issues with their initiative and they opted not to change them. During the conference, the city displayed a Springfield ordinance on a poster board that they say shows, by ordinance, they are not able to change an initiative.
"But, here is the simple bottom line," added Rushefsky. "There is at least one section with fines and penalties that is outright, clearly illegal, and they knew that at the time they submitted it."
Ozarks Minuteman spokesperson Jerry Wilson says not only is the city mischaracterizing the process the Minutemen went through to have their petition and the initiative certified, they said they hoped for City Council to pass the E-Verify ordinance so they could make the needed changes.
"At some point we found out fines are a purview of the federal government at that point had already turned it in to the city clerk," said Wilson. "You know, it took us a year and a half to get this ordinance to the City of Springfield and to the voters. Our goal in the beginning was to get it to the voters and we've achieved that. It would have been great if City Council would have passed it, they could have made changes, but failing that voters have a chance to speak, certainly respect that what I may say is if they fail to pass this we may be paying for a long time."
Wilson says if the ordinance doesn't pass Springfield, we will see an influx of illegal aliens that he claims is happening in other Missouri cities.
"It won't happen tomorrow or next week or next month, but it five or six years they'll get around to making revision and by then it will be too late to make any changes."
Voters will decide the next chapter in this debate at the polls on Tuesday.
Rushefsky says City Council could only repeal the initiative after six months with a unanimous vote, but she says even though she opposes the measure she would not vote to overturn the results of a valid election.