Illegal Immigration Law Draws More Opposition
Oklahoma’s new anti-illegal immigration law, the strictest such legislation in the country, continues to draw opposition as Hispanic people, according to some, leave the state in droves.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a lawsuit claiming House Bill 1804, passed last year by the legislature, interferes with federal law. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include The State Chamber of Oklahoma, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, Oklahoma Restaurant Association and Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association.
The bill denies state services to illegal immigrants and forces businesses to verify the immigration status of their employees. Ultimately, the bill can be seen as a legal crackdown on businesses, which employ illegal immigrants. Many of the state’s illegal immigrants are Hispanic and work in construction and at restaurants.
In a statement issued about the lawsuit, the chamber argues that “piecemeal immigration laws are not the answer, and that Congress needs to enact comprehensive federal immigration reform."
It is unclear if the chamber lawsuit can be successful. An earlier lawsuit based on a constitutional challenge has been dismissed.
Meanwhile, state Rep. David Braddock (D-Altus), pictured right, said he will introduce legislation this session to repeal provisions of the law, according to media reports. Braddock said farmers and business in his district are suffering financially because “a lot of the labor force just picked up and left — legal and illegal” after the bill was passed.
Braddock told a reporter: "They're absolutely afraid of staying here. They think Oklahoma doesn't want them. I don't think that's what Oklahoma is about.” But Braddock conceded his bill stands little chance of being considered.
Meanwhile, the sponsor of HB 1804, state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) said the opponents of the bill are promoting “modern-day slavery.” But this leaves out the fact that those seeking work here are often impoverished and cannot find jobs in their home countries. Should we send them back to live in poverty? So the “dialogue” goes on the issue.
There are no reliable figures on how many illegal and legal immigrants have left the state. Anecdotal evidence from Hispanic organizations, businesses who serve the Hispanic community and construction industry spokespeople suggests there has been a substantial exodus. This is problematic for the state’s economic development and its image. It makes the state seem intolerant. The bill also puts Oklahoma at a disadvantage economically with some surrounding states.
As I argued earlier, strong opposition to the bill has come mainly after it was passed. All the problems created by the bill—lack of workers for farming and construction, for example—were accurately predicted over the last two years.
Most people agree that illegal immigration is a problem in this country, but it remains a federal issue. Here are some of the questions: What impact do illegal immigrants have on wages in this country? How do we document the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in this country? How much money will it cost to find and possibly even arrest all of the nation’s illegal immigrants? How can Mexico improve its economy? How do we rationally and logically—not just symbolically with a wall or border fence—improve border security?
One of the main problems is the fracture between pro-business and law-and-order Republicans over the issue of a guest worker program. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, for example, has supported a guest worker program for illegal immigrants in the past, but the law-and-order wing will not budge on the issue. All this drama is now played out in the state as both sides hurl “modern-day slavery” and “racism” charges at each other.
Ultimately, though, Oklahoma is only hurting itself with this new law. Typical.