© 2011 Caroline Cook
Immigration is back on the agenda in Oklahoma, four years after passage of HB 1804, a law intended to give the state new powers to stem illegal immigration. The issue is once again highly contentious, as Oklahoma wades further into areas of law traditionally reserved for the federal government. Some are urging Oklahoma to push beyond HB 1804 and pass legislation akin to Arizona’s SB 1070 that received national attention as one of the strictest immigration laws in the country. On the other side, prominent business, religious, and community leaders caution lawmakers against enacting sweeping measures that target working families, are likely unconstitutional, and tarnish the state’s image. They point to the mounting economic toll of similar legislation in other states – 45 million in hotel industry losses alone in Arizona – and worry that laws targeting employers scare off prospective investment and slow economic development.
Out of two dozen immigration bills introduced during the 2011 Legislative session, four are still active. Attention has focused on HB 1446, co-authored by the chairs of the special Joint Immigration Reform Committee, Rep. George Faught and Sen. Ron Justice, which legislative leadership has identified as “a starting point for the discussion” on immigration. HB 1446 covers vast territory, with provisions pertaining to day labor, hiring, record-keeping, ‘human smuggling,’ and higher education. Those who support additional state legislation on immigration cite the need to expand the authority of law enforcement to deal with drug trafficking, gang activity, human trafficking and human smuggling, problems which are seen to be exacerbated by illegal immigration. Yet, HB 1446 (and sections of SB 908) only address the human smuggling concern and would make it arguably more difficult to isolate perpetrators of human smuggling.
continue reading Where Angels Fear to Tread: Oklahoma wades back into immigration debate