State Rep. Randy Terrill’s crusade against Oklahoma’s undocumented workers has been met with ongoing resistance from some state law enforcement officials, creating a discombobulated, ugly spectacle during our centennial year.
As the state celebrates its 100th birthday, an overriding question is how will the state enforce House Bill 1804, a new anti-illegal immigration law—one of the strictest in the nation—passed by overwhelming majorities in the legislature last session.
Terrill (R-Moore), pictured right, wants the law enforced exactly as written. You can be against Terrill’s extreme right-wing political philosophy and the bill itself (this is the case with Okie Funk) and still see the legislator’s point. (He does drone on and on about it.) The bill, which makes it illegal to harbor or transport an undocumented person, passed overwhelmingly. Gov. Brad Henry signed it. It calls on law enforcement to deport illegal immigrants. What, really, is the argument?
But it is a law-and-order type eat law-and-order type world these days.
Oklahoma City Police Chief William Citty put it bluntly: "We're not going to enforce immigration laws. It's our opinion that it's a federal issue. If anyone is stopped on a felony or DUI, we will check their status. We will notify ICE if something needs to be investigated. But I don't have the manpower for this.” (“Police and district attorneys look at immigration proposal,” The Daily Oklahoman, October 14, 2007.)
Citty is right. Even the editorial writers at The Oklahoman agree. This is a federal issue and should be solved with federal resources and money. Why should Oklahomans pay the bill for the national Republicans’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform? Why do Oklahomans or anyone for that matter have to keep paying for the GOP messes, such as immigration, the Iraq occupation and rising energy and health care costs?
The courts may ultimately decide the issue. Is the state overstepping federal jurisdiction? Is the new law even legal?
But Terrill the Terrible is undeterred. According to a news report, he envisions a “son of HB 1804” which would treat undocumented workers as human contraband so all their assets could be seized if they are arrested.
All of this will undoubtedly highlight another splendid right-wing legislative session next year. At least it will not be the centennial, right?
The problem here is the continuing failure of the Oklahoma leadership on so many important issues. When the powerful media and corporate interests, such as The Oklahoman, and top executives at Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy Corporation , throw in almost exclusively with one party, the GOP, then there is no wiggle room on issues. The Oklahoman opposed HB 1804, but it could have done so earlier and with much more conviction and effort. This, in turn, would have given those who opposed the measure more validity. All these enforcement issues were foreseen.
Corporate, moneyed Republicans want a cheap labor pool and are willing to (wink, wink) break the law to get it, but they also need the GOP base for their big, fat tax cuts. Law-and-order Republicans want illegal immigrants deported, and, if Terrill is the model, they want to participate in an emotional drama of collective, displaced vengeance. Congressional Democrats, who mostly fall between these two entrenched camps, do not have the numbers to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. So it goes.
Meanwhile, the local horror stories continue. News reports say some say illegal immigrants are leaving the state, for example, and this may ultimately solve the law-enforcement issue to some degree. Those who stay live in fear they will be caught and separated from their families indefinitely.
School Bond Issue Passes By Wide Margin
Oklahoma City area voters overwhelmingly approved a $248.3 million school bond issue Tuesday.
The wide margin of victory—nearly 80 percent approval—shows local voters obviously want to invest in Oklahoma City Public Schools, but it also represents what happens when partisan politics are set aside temporarily as people work for a common cause. It may also suggest voters have grown weary of Republican “starve the beast” ideology, which tries to cut off funding for schools and government at every turn.
Educators, business leaders and the corporate media, primarily The Daily Oklahoman, were joined by political progressives in promoting the issue. The common cause is simple: Decent schools lead to a better quality of life for everyone, even for those voters who have no children in the school district. It is a win-win situation for Democrats and Republicans.
The staggering victory can also be attributed to the success of the 2001 Maps for Kids projects. The new bond issue promises to build on that legacy. It will fund four propositions dealing with infrastructure, technology, transportation and security improvements.
But it is hard not to read a powerful political message in the vote totals. After years of tax cuts on the state and federal level, Oklahoma City voters chose to vote for the common interest by a huge margin. Does this foretell a major philosophical change in local voters? Will this new philosophy affect the 2008 elections. Those are debatable questions.
Meanwhile, local schools are on the rise here, and the momentum only increases.
CAP Urges Veto Override On SCHIP
The Community Action Project in Tulsa is urging Congress to override President George Bush’s veto of a bill that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
The bill, which would expand the program from $5 billion to $35 billion over five years, passed by wide margins in the House and Senate, but the president and other Republican ideologues are trying to stop it. Approximately 40,000 more Oklahoma children would be eligible for the program if the bill eventually passes.
CAP issued a statement and brief recently on the issue. The progressive-leaning organization is urging citizens to call their House representatives and Oklahoma’s two senators to urge them to override the veto. Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation voted against the bill, but U.S. Rep. Dan Boren has recently said he will reverse course and not support the president’s veto.
Meanwhile, The Daily Oklahoman has published an unsigned editorial criticizing CAP’s position. The editorial (“Override overdrive: SCHIP debate bypasses key question,” October 10, 2007) ultimately argues, “. . . the private sector offers a more efficient and cost-effective approach to health care than the bureaucracy. Yet the override truck rolls on without stopping for the hard question.”
It is hard to fathom how the newspaper or anyone can claim these days the private sector is doing an “efficient” job with health care. The country’s health care system needs vast structural reform. Is that even a debate anymore? SCHIP is just an extremely tiny step in the right direction. Oklahoma and the nation will benefit greatly if Congress can override Bush’s veto.
Our children in the Oklahoma City area deserve decent school buildings and learning materials in order to prepare for college and the workforce.
That is why local voters need to get to the polls tomorrow (October 9) and vote “Yes for Kids,” which is a $248.3 million bond issue that will continue the success of the Maps for Kids program in Oklahoma City Public Schools.
The bond issue, which will not raise taxes, will go to improving the district’s basic infrastructure, such as buildings and classrooms, providing new technology equipment for classrooms, improving the transportation system and better security. The proposed spending plan is logical, reasonable and far-sighted.
The issue needs a "super majority" of 60 percent yes votes in order to pass. Do not count on others to ensure the bond issue passes. Our kids need your vote.
(Here is an article I wrote for the Oklahoma Gazette about the bond issue.)