The move followed House passage on Tuesday of a resolution that, if passed by the Senate and given voter approval, would make English the state's language in all official proceedings.
The measure, which was given first-round approval on Wednesday, would not only bar illegals from attending state universities, but also require the registrars of each school to certify to the legislature that they have not admitted any illegal immigrants before the state approves higher education spending.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Nolte, R-Gladstone, and other supporters of the bill say that the state should not be spending taxpayers' dollars on educating illegal immigrants.
"Why should we subsidize someone who criminally enters the state?" said Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City. "Are we then subsidizing crime?"
Some Democrats say that the bill is not only unnecessary, but could result in funding being denied to state colleges and universities.
Rep. Mike Daus, D-St. Louis City, said that the measure could place education appropriations committees under pressure to deny university funding if it is found that an illegal slipped through the admissions process at a particular school.
"What happens in appropriations?" Daus said during House floor debate on the bill. "We strip money from people who do things we don't like. I'm afraid that's what will happen here."
Nolte has said that in general, Missouri's colleges and universities do not admit illegals, but he still wants to codify the admittance process. Democrats pressed him Wednesday to explain why the bill was needed when the rules are already followed and when it is impossible to know how many - if any - illegal immigrants are attending the state's universities.
"It's a definite case where we're making a mountain out of a mole hill," Rep. Pat Yaeger, D-St. Louis County, said.
Barbara Rupp, Director of Admissions for MU, said the university already takes the necessary steps to verify the status of applicants. She said that if the legislation passes, it "would not be an undue burden since we're already doing it."
Rupp said that if a prospective student is not a U.S. resident, they must provide a student visa and funding for an entire year of school in advance. If they do not, Rupp said, they are not admitted to the university. However, Rupp said that if a student indicates on their application that they are a U.S. resident and were born in the U.S., the university does not double-check whether the information is true. But Rupp added that an illegal immigrant who lied on their application would probably be discovered if they applied for financial aid.
Columbia representatives Ed Robb, R-Columbia, and Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, voted against it.