Image of diversity hands

Oklahoma’s conservative politicians wasted no time in producing some of the nations's most outlandish and bizarre criticism of President Barack Obama’s sensible new plan to stop the deportation of some immigrants living here illegally.

Topping the list of this particular Okie spectacle is outgoing Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who unfortunately had this to say about the president’s decision:

"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation. You're going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."

That sounds to me more like “a call’’ to violence than a warning about violence. Note the language “going to go nuts” and “anarchy” and “could see violence." Let me state the obvious: Coburn’s comments are incendiary and irresponsible. If there IS any violence, Coburn should be held directly responsible for it, along with the corporate media journalists who have tried through the years to depict the senator as some sort of reasoned political sage.

I think Oklahomans know Coburn a little bit better than those Beltway journalists trolling for a story that fits a preconceived phony narrative. Coburn is a radical and an extremist. His comments are actually designed to incite violence and anarchy, even though they are supposedly couched as a warning. His comments are no different than what you might hear on a Rush Limbaugh show. Yet Coburn still gets depicted as a serious statesman.

Here’s a point Coburn won’t acknowledge. Even if Obama did nothing about the issue, this country would still be flooded with people who live here without appropriate documentation. That’s going to continue. Why would Americans suddenly go nuts and start rampaging in the streets over one policy shift when the illegal immigrants are already here in the first place? Is it because Coburn WANTS people to go nuts and get violent?

Basically, the controversial point of Obama’s plan is that it protects up to five million illegal immigrants from deportations. It also refocuses our anti-illegal immigration efforts on monitoring and deporting criminals who come to the United States. Here’s a basic outline of the plan. Some experts estimate there are more than 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

Coburn’s siren call to violence—violence against immigrants, perhaps, or maybe even the president himself?—was just one outlandish comment by an Oklahoma politician. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a statement that he plans to “take action” against the president over his new directive. Of course, that means he’s threatening to sue, just as he has sued to end Obamacare so impoverished people can’t have access to medical care here in Oklahoma. Pruitt’s entire focus as the state’s attorney general has been to oppose Obama in any possible way he can. Here’s his statement on the Obama immigration plan:

It is anticipated tonight’s speech will again prove our President sees himself as above the law. Regardless of what the President thinks the law ought to be, our constitution dictates that Congress makes the law, it is the Presidents duty to faithfully execute those laws. If the President takes an executive action that violates his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the immigration laws passed by Congress, we will take action to hold him accountable.

Note the language “will AGAIN [emphasis mine] prove our President sees himself as us above the law” and “violate his constitutional duty.” It’s sheer nonsense. American presidents have taken executive action on immigration and other issues throughout the years. This is well documented and doesn’t even bear repeating. Obama is doing nothing out of the ordinary, except to maybe get something accomplished in the face of Republican recalcitrance.

Other negative comments from the prominent conservative politicians here in Oklahoma are so typical they should make us yawn. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole claims, “ . . . the president has chosen to pit lawmakers and the Americans they represent against each other.” What does that even mean? U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas asks, “ . . . where does this kind of stuff stop?” Stuff? Come on, let’s have a serious conversation about the immigration issue, not focus on arcane points about implementation and constitutional authority. It’s more than just “stuff.” U.S. Rep. James Lankford, who was just elected to fill Coburn’s Senate seat, claims Obama “does not want to do the hard work of negotiating an actual reform . . .” Let’s be clear: Obama has tried repeatedly to find compromise with stubborn Republicans on an array of issues in his presidential tenure.

The crux of the issue is that we have more than 11 million people living here illegally. Many of these people have menial jobs. They come here to escape poverty and have a better way of life. The vast majority of these people are law-abiding—I get it that they’re here “illegally” so don’t think you caught me in some paradox—and want education and safety for their children. It is logistically impossible to find and then round up all these people and send them back to their home countries.

Our country has needed to do something about this issue for years, but the GOP because of xenophobia and racism has refused to act in a sensible manner. No one, especially Obama, is arguing these people should get blanket amnesty and complete forgiveness. The point is that these people, many of them from Mexico, should be able to come out of the shadows and participate fully in our taxation and regulatory systems. It makes the most sense.

On one hand, there actually are Republicans who do want the cheap labor illegal immigrants provide; on the other hand, the racists and xenophobic people who make up a sizeable segment of the Republican base crave retaliation, maybe even some of that “violence” and “anarchy” Coburn seems to be promoting these days. These two factions will never find common ground, and they both hate Obama with an irrational intensity that can only be contributed to the fact he’s an African American. How is any type of compromise remotely possible given these obvious facts?

Obama’s plan is a sensible start to solving a crucial issue in our country. It’s also sure, on a political level, to show immigrants and other people, and especially those of Hispanic descent in this country, that the Democratic Party embraces diversity and tolerance.


Big News? Washington Post Features Terrill, Arizona-Plus

Image of Randy Terrill

(Check out DocHoc's views on state education funding in this week's Oklahoma Gazette.)

Here comes “Arizona-Plus.”

Oklahoma and state Rep. Randy Terrill made national news recently when The Washington Post reported on Terrill’s plans to introduce next session anti-illegal immigration legislation even more stringent than the controversial Arizona measure.

The federal government has filed a lawsuit against the Arizona law, which has drawn widespread criticism for condoning racial profiling. The suit argues the Arizona law usurps federal authority.

Undoubtedly, the lawsuit will not deter Terrill, who currently faces a political corruption investigation by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. Terrill has been the leading anti-illegal immigration voice in Oklahoma, sponsoring the draconian House Bill 1804 in 2007, hailed at the time as the toughest state law yet cracking down on illegal immigration.

As The Post article, which points out Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah will soon consider legislation similar to Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law, notes:

In 2007, Oklahoma led the way on such laws by adopting legislation that makes it a felony to knowingly transport or shelter an illegal immigrant. It also blocked illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses and in-state tuition.

According to The Post, Terrill wants to up the ante of the Arizona law by including a provision that would allow the government to seize assets of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The Arizona law requires people carry immigration documents and allows police to make people prove they are in the country legally.

A majority of Oklahomans will no doubt support Terrill’s efforts, but that doesn’t mean such legislation doesn’t have a negative economic impact and sullies the state’s image as a place of intolerance. After Arizona passed its law, it faced boycotts. Oklahoma just can’t afford economic boycotts. The last thing the state needs to do is further isolate itself.

In the article, Terrill makes the point that the recent arrest here of an alleged Mexican drug cartel member who is allegedly from Arizona just proves that the state needs to get even tougher. He argues Arizona’s illegal immigrants will end up here if the state doesn’t do something.

But besides this arrest, there’s no other evidence that Oklahoma is getting flooded with illegal immigrants because of the Arizona law.

Meanwhile, law-and-order Republicans want the law enforced and big-business Republicans want a cheap labor pool. Union Democrats don’t want illegal immigrants to undercut their wages and other Democrats see the problem rooted in Mexico’s poverty level and feel compassion for people simply seeking menial labor jobs in order to survive.

Illegal immigration is a problem in this country, but it’s a federal issue. The way to solve it is to demand Congress and the president do something about it. Oklahoma has no business being out front on this issue. The state needs growth, and it should present itself as a welcoming place. Does that mean the state should encourage illegal immigration? Absolutely not. But the state shouldn’t situate itself as intolerant either.


Oh no you don’t, Arizona

All of us are immigrants
Every daughter, every son
Everyone is everyone
All of us are immigrants
Everyone—from City of Immigrants by Steve Earle

Image of Big Brother is watching you

What Arizona can do, we can do stricter.

That could be the rallying cry for a group of Oklahoma legislators who want to pass a stricter anti-illegal immigration law than the controversial measure recently passed in Arizona.

The Arizona bill, which requires police officers to check documents of anyone they suspect is here illegally, has drawn lawsuits, protests and economic boycotts, but that’s not going to stop conservative lawmakers here from going down the same road.

In a tangible sense, the Arizona bill sanctions racial profiling, primarily of Hispanic people, and creates a type of police state that should alarm everyone no matter what they feel about illegal immigrants. (The law was modified Thursday to supposedly prevent racial profiling.) Will we all have to carry extra paperwork soon and be subject to random questioning by police because we look or talk a certain way? It’s really not that far-fetched.

According to media reports, state Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) and other lawmakers want the same law here only they want to up the ante by confiscating vehicles of illegal immigrants and preventing automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. They want to pass it this session.

Terrill, of course, is the author of controversial House Bill 1804, passed in 2007, which gave Oklahoma the strictest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. That bill has also drawn legal challenges and protests.

Oklahoma faces a major budget crisis. Next year’s budget has a gaping $800-$850 million shortfall. State employees, including educators, face furloughs and layoffs. Mental health services have been cut.

Yet the law-and-order conservative crowd here wants to drag this state deeper into a financial hole through hateful, intolerant legislation that reeks of racism. If such a bill passes, expect the same reaction Arizona received. The state will have to fight costly lawsuits, the convention business in Oklahoma and Tulsa will experience cancellations, American cities, such as San Francisco, El Paso and New York, could literally stop doing business here.

Does Oklahoma really want to isolate itself from the rest of the world? Why doesn’t the corporate power structure in this state come to the rescue and stop propping up the GOP? Is this type of controversial legislation good for businesses here? Is there a breaking point?

The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the proposal and state Rep. Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole) spoke out forcefully against it, but historically Oklahomans have supported strict anti-illegal immigration laws and this is an election year. If the bill is passed, the best chance to stop it will be in the Senate, which consists of 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats. If it makes it through the Senate, Gov. Brad Henry should veto it.

Congress has failed the American people by refusing to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would bring illegal immigrants out in the open and give them a chance for citizenship. The Arizona bill and the Oklahoma proposal is what you end up with.