Gov. Jay Nixon said Saturday he will veto a measure that would prevent students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally from receiving money under Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program.
Nixon made the announcement in a speech to the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group holding its annual convention at Bartle Hall in Kansas City.
The four-day convention, which kicked off Saturday, features a family expo, entertainment, town hall events and speakers — all focused on improving the lives of Hispanic Americans through health, education, careers and communities.
La Raza affiliates stood in applause for Nixon’s decision.
“Senate Bill 224 flies in the face of what we believe as Americans and everything we know about the transformative power of education,” Nixon said. “It does not value hard work. It does not value personal responsibility.”
Supporters of the bill said it was meant to limit the number of people receiving scholarships in order to preserve them for Missouri residents.
Nixon said that rather than punishing students, the state should be encouraging those who are willing to work hard.
This is the first time Kansas City has hosted the La Raza conference. In 2009, the city lost the convention because then-Mayor Mark Funkhouser had appointed to the city park board a member of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which conducted armed patrols on the U.S.-Mexican border.
This year, Mayor Sly James welcomed La Raza to Kansas City — where, he said, it should have been a long time ago.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is the nation’s largest philanthropy focused solely on health.
Lavizzo-Mourey challenged the Latino community and all Americans to create a culture of health, where, she said, compassion is a core part of the cure.
“Health is so much more than not being sick,” she said in her speech. “It’s a vital aspect of how and where we live, work, play and pray. It’s about how we raise and educate our children, how we make decisions for our families. A culture of health respects and honors the rich diversity of our communities and the importance of family traditions.”
More than 100 exhibitors advised and entertained guests at the family expo, offering free health screenings, financial advising, career planning, soccer tournaments and performances by local music and dance companies.
Maria Del Rosario, who made the trip from Mexico to visit her sister in Kansas City, said she felt right at home.
“You’re not in your country, but you feel close to so many Hispanics,” Del Rosario said. “This is something really great, to get a community of Hispanics together, to be united, to feel that support and the force too.”
The La Raza family expo will continue from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday and until 3 p.m. Monday.
On Monday, Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will speak to the convention. All three speeches are closed to the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.