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No family should be punished for accepting help when they need it

The proposed rule change will be available for public comment until December 10. Click here to submit your own public comment.

Bad luck or hard times can hit any of us, and when it happens we should all be able to seek and accept help to meet basic needs while we work to get back on our feet.  But for many Oklahoma families, that assurance of compassion and help may soon disappear. Recently proposed changes to federal immigration rules would make it harder for families to put food on the table, get medical care when they need it, pay for prescription drugs, and find a safe place to live.

The “public charge” test

Anyone seeking to come to the United State, or anyone already here legally seeking to stay here permanently, must demonstrate that they, or someone sponsoring them, can provide for their family so they won’t become dependent on the government. Current immigration rules consider a broad set of factors when considering applicants – age, health status, skills and education, and financial resources are just a few.  Any use of cash assistance programs (like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) is also considered a negative factor.

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On immigration rhetoric, consider the facts

by | June 13th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (2)

Undocumented Oklahomans are woven into the fabric of our communities in countless ways. Many have lived here for decades as they raise U.S.-born children, and they often work difficult, labor-intensive jobs that few legal residents will take. As the race to replace Governor Fallin heats up, it’s disappointing – if unsurprising – that dubious claims about the effects of undocumented immigration have appeared in candidates’ platforms. 

While the value of undocumented immigrants to our state can’t be measured merely by their economic costs and benefits, it’s important to set the record straight: by any fair estimate, undocumented Oklahomans contribute a great deal to our economy and state tax base, and they would contribute even more if granted legal status. Voters should recognize that Oklahoma is much better off when our communities unite to reject appeals that minimize the contributions of our neighbors.

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To improve public safety and insurance rates, allow undocumented Oklahomans to drive legally

by | June 8th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (1)

This post is by OK Policy intern Jacob Tharp. Jacob is a recent University of Oklahoma graduate in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Oklahoma’s approximately 95,000 undocumented immigrants are a force in Oklahoma’s economy, accounting for about 1 in 30 members of the workforce and contributing roughly $85 million in state and local taxes annually. But despite their positive economic contributions, undocumented residents face arrest and/or deportation for doing something that many Oklahomans do every day: driving.

Although immigration is mainly a federal policy issue, many states recognize that undocumented immigrants will continue to live, work, go to school, and drive here, and that there are benefits to ensuring that undocumented immigrants who are contributing positively can obey state laws. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented residents to obtain a driver’s license or equivalent. This growing list of states includes progressive strongholds such as California, but also conservative states like Utah. Oklahoma should join these states and extend legal driving privileges to our undocumented neighbors. Such a policy would not only improve overall public safety, but could also help lower Oklahoma’s staggering uninsured motorist rate and generate revenue for a state that desperately needs it.

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Denying immigrants access to the safety net would have terrible consequences for us all

Most Americans agree that it’s important to have a social safety net.  Bad luck and hard times can hit any of us, and when that happens there should be something there to keep us from falling into destitution while we work to get back on our feet. That’s what the safety net does – it helps people avoid extreme deprivation and produces long-term benefits, especially for children. But recent moves by the Trump administration could create holes in the safety net, allowing many working families to crash straight through.

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Congress must pass the Dream Act to protect young Oklahomans and our economy

by | September 7th, 2017 | Posted in Immigration | Comments (0)

DACA recipient and Teacher for America corps member Marissa Molina (Source)

Visit the Dream Act Toolkit website and urge your legislators to pass the Dream Act.

President Trump recently announced his plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by the start of next March. DACA, created by executive order by President Obama in 2012, protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. Many of these young immigrants, commonly known as “dreamers”, came to this country at such a young age that they don’t remember living anywhere else.

In Oklahoma, 6,865 initial DACA applications have been approved as of March 2017, about 75 percent of the eligible population. The plan to end DACA puts the legal status of these Oklahomans and almost 800,000 young people across the country up in the air, jeopardizing their ability to work and live in the U.S. Even more troubling, the federal government now has a great deal of information about the people who submitted applications. This information that the government attained by promising protection from deportation could potentially be used to make it easier to find and deport them.

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What this panhandle county tells us about the future of Oklahoma

by | July 6th, 2015 | Posted in Economy, Immigration | Comments (5)
American Theater in Guymon, Texas County, OK | Photo by Nathan Gunter | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The American Theater in Guymon, Texas County, OK | Photo by Nathan Gunter | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Chan Aaron is an OK Policy summer intern. He is pursuing an environmental policy degree at The University of Tulsa. He is also a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in philosophy and a veteran of the United States Navy.

The average Oklahoman probably doesn’t know much about Texas County, OK (other than that it is next to Texas). Yet this small panhandle county could be a glimpse of the state’s future. A new OK Policy fact sheet lays out the rapid changes happening in Texas County in recent years, and in this post we discuss what they could mean for the state as a whole.

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Sleeping dogs of the 2015 session

Photo by Chris Waits

Photo by Chris Waits

The 2015 session is now underway and it’s clear that this year, as always, will feature heated debates on a multitude of contentious issues, from proposals to expand school choice through vouchers and charter schools to efforts to rein in tax credits to hot-button social issues, such as guns, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

Less noted, but perhaps equally significant, is the low profile of several issues that have been highly contentious in recent years and that many expected to see back on the agenda in 2015. Here’s a review of four issues on which few, if any, bills have been filed and it now appears that minimal legislative action is likely this session.

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What President Obama’s immigration order means for Oklahoma

by | February 12th, 2015 | Posted in Immigration, Immigration Basics | Comments (0)

This post is by OK Policy intern Nikki Hager. She is a senior Political Science and Economics major at the University of Tulsa.

Immigrant Rights Day rally at the US Capitol. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

Immigrant Rights Day rally at the US Capitol. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

In November, President Obama issued an executive order to grant deportation relief to approximately half of the nation’s estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants. The Immigration Accountability Executive Action (IAEA) is contentious and its future is uncertain—Oklahoma and 24 other states are suing the President over the order—but it nonetheless will have a significant effect on Oklahoma’s undocumented residents. This post will explore who is affected by the order in Oklahoma and what the order means for them.

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The kids are out of Fort Sill. Now what?

by | September 9th, 2014 | Posted in Immigration, Immigration Basics | Comments (3)

Image via Kids In Need of Defense.

At the end of July, we published a blog post debunking some myths about the unaccompanied children housed at Fort Sill in Lawton. Now that the temporary shelter there has been closed and the children have all been relocated, we talked with the TU College of Law’s Professor Elizabeth McCormick (who spoke about this issue at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute) about where the children are now and what their futures look like. We summarized her responses.

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[Summer Rerun] Read This: “Kind of Kin”

by | August 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (0)

This post, authored by then-intern Carly Putnam, first ran on our blog on July 25, 2013. It has been updated.

coverIt’s rare to find a novel set in Oklahoma; it’s rarer still to find a novel set in Oklahoma that actually feels like Oklahoma, with all of its quirks, dangers, and beauty. Author Rilla Askew is Oklahoman herself and it shows; Kind of Kin is funny, poignant, and very smart. The novel deftly describes the fallout of immigration politics in a small (but fierce) Oklahoma town. Competing factions of families, faith communities, local politicians, and the migrants themselves struggle to adjust as forces outside their control shape their worlds.

Kind of Kin was inspired by Oklahoma’s HB 1804, signed into law in 2007, which made it a felony to harbor undocumented immigrants (we analyzed HB 1804 here). HB 1804 was considered the nation’s most far-reaching immigration reform law until Arizona passed its own immigration reform in 2010. Although HB 1804 initially created widespread panic in the state’s Latino community, the alarm subsided as its effects proved less disruptive than initially feared.

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