Oklahoma’s new illegal immigration bill, considered one of the strictest such laws in the country, should become a catalyst for state leaders from diverse political backgrounds to come together to oppose it and educate the public about its unintended effects.
Those leaders opposed to House Bill 1804, now the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, need to organize and implement strategies to lessen the bill’s negative impact on the state, work against proposed companion legislation and create a viable repeal movement in the same way business leaders, educators and progressive groups united recently to oppose the Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiative petition in the state.
This could be a coalition of prominent Hispanic, political, business, law enforcement, education, social services and religious leaders. It could include other leaders and groups. The coalition’s goal should not necessarily be focused on repealing the new law, but on educating people about the pitfalls of going it alone on immigration solutions without a level playing field provided by the federal government.
By now, many American citizens in Oklahoma have received their first taste of HB 1804 ” authored by state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore ” from hassles renewing expired driver’s licenses to declining business at stores serving the Hispanic community to problems hiring workers for construction jobs. All of these issues have been documented by the state’s media.
The law, approved by overwhelming majorities in the Legislature this year, went into effect Nov. 1. It makes it illegal for anyone to transport or conceal illegal immigrants in Oklahoma and that presumably would include churches and religious organizations, many of which oppose the bill. It denies illegal immigrants over the age of 14 state social services.
Terrill has promised to introduce what he calls “Son of House Bill 1804″ in next year’s legislative session. This bill would require education officials to keep more extensive records about undocumented students, presumably to keep them from attending public schools here.
Some anti-illegal immigration proponents in other states say they will try to emulate Oklahoma’s bill this coming year as the federal government, primarily because of the political schism between pro-business and law-and-order Republicans, does nothing to help solve the problem of how to deal with the country’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.
Against this backdrop, the new coalition could argue:There are no reliable studies showing illegal immigrants take jobs away from Americans, depress wages, or benefit more from tax dollars than they pay into the system. HB 1804 makes Oklahoma seem intolerant as it puts the state at a disadvantage in business competition from out of state. Draconian anti-illegal immigration laws only drive the country’s undocumented workers deeper into hiding. The issue only can be solved for Oklahoma and the country on a federal level. Recent surveys by The Washington Post, CBS News, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg and other organizations show a majority of Americans want sensible immigration laws that toughen border security while allowing for guest worker programs.
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of the progressive blog “Okie Funk: Notes From the Outback,” http://www.okiefunk.com.