Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, said he was extremely happy with a vote that would withhold state health, welfare and educational services to those who could not prove their legal citizenship status.
“I’m ecstatic,” he told reporters as they walked past him in the halls of the Oklahoma House of Representatives following the vote, ignoring him to interview a Hispanic citizen who had been given two minutes speaking time against the bill. Terrill looked like a band student trying to chat up cheerleaders.
Terrill’s bill, House Bill 1804, was up for a vote before the House Judiciary & Public Safety Committee. Although committee sessions normally are held in side conference rooms in the state Capitol, powers that be decided to hold this one in the House chambers to accommodate spectators ” about 100 ” most of whom were for passage of the bill.
But it was Terrill and the debate against him that really took center stage.
Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-OklahomaCity, attacked a provision in the bill requiring people with “reasonable suspicion” to report an illegal in their workplace. Morrissette said an untrained citizen, unlike a police officer, wouldn’t know the legal term for reasonable suspicion from reasonable shinola. He suggested the provision would turn everyone into vigilante snitches.
“Are we creating a Star Chamber police here?” Morrissette asked. He asked whether Terrill had consulted with Attorney General Drew Edmondson about whether that would be enforceable.
Terrill quipped, “I would simply remind you that we are the lawmaking body. We tell them what to do.”
Carol Helm, who represented Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now, lauded the bill because it would punish employers hiring illegal immigrants.
“They need cheap, cheap labor,” she said. “Put a stop to it.”
Ed Romo, from the League of United Latin American Citizens, warned that the bill, if it is signed into law, would give a pat on the back to dangerous elements in the state.
“You don’t want to legislate vigilantism in this state. We have seen enough of it,” Romo said.
But the one that the reporters all flocked to was Mauro Yanez, an OklahomaStateUniversity professor and naturalized citizen from Venezuela. Yanez only protested the education elements of Terrill’s bill.
In the hall, he said he was a first-generation naturalized American citizen and wanted Hispanic youths to be allowed in public schools like he was.
“If these kids are smart enough to do well in school, why should we turn them out in the street?” he told reporters.
The bill passed from committee 14-3, with a recommendation to pass the House. Spectators in the gallery cheered. Terrill gave them thumbs up.