Friday, April 19, 2024

OK House Republicans vote to protect Oklahomans from illegal immigration crisis; Dems oppose

Oklahoma House Republicans are aiming to do something to protect Oklahoma from Biden's illegal immigration crisis, while, naturally, the House Democrats oppose doing anything except embracing it.

House Republicans Vote to Protect Oklahomans from Illegal Immigration Crisis

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 18th) – Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, today received passage of House Bill 4156 by a vote of 77-20. The legislation, aimed at addressing the illegal immigration crisis, creates the crime of impermissible occupation. Details include:

  • A person commits an impermissible occupation if the person willfully and without permission enters and remains in the State of Oklahoma without having first obtained legal authorization to enter the United States.
  • Penalties for violating the new law will be:
    • First offense – Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than $500, or both, required to leave the state within 72 hours of being released from custody and prohibited from reentering the state at any time thereafter.
    • Second or subsequent offense – Felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Dept. of Corrections for a term of not more than two years, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both, required to leave the state within 72 hours of being released from custody and prohibited from reentering the state at any time thereafter.

Additionally, the legislation includes a preemption clause prohibiting municipalities from becoming 'sanctuary cities.'

"I am thankful that my Republican colleagues saw fit to address this issue and pass meaningful legislation to protect the citizens of Oklahoma from the illegal immigration crisis plaguing our country right now," said McCall. "The failure of the federal government to address this issue, and the lack of leadership by the Biden Administration, has turned every state into a border state. Those who want to work through the process of coming to our country legally are more than welcome to come to Oklahoma; we would love to have them here. Those who jump the line, and skip the process, cheapen the value of the work put in by those who went through the full legal process to become a citizen of our great country. We will not reward that behavior in Oklahoma, and we will protect our state borders."

Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, who presented the bill on the House floor, said that this is common sense legislation that allows the state to properly protect its borders and citizens.

"Anyone saying that there is not an illegal immigration crisis in our state and nation is simply ignoring reality," Echols said. "This is a common sense piece of legislation that allows Oklahoma to protect our citizens and our state borders, while also preemptively signaling to those in our country illegally that they should choose another state to migrate to. The Legislature has an obligation to ensure that the rights, privileges and safety of our citizens, authorized residents and lawfully present visitors is protected at all costs. Other states can take whatever action they see fit, but Oklahoma is now going to be less attractive for those who enter our country unlawfully."

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Of course, the House Democrats opposed the measure:

House Democrats Fight Unconstitutional Legislation, Support Protecting All Oklahomans

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 18th) – Oklahoma House Democrats debated against HB 4156, and provided alternative, state-based solutions to consider instead.

HB 4156 would make the first offense for being undocumented in Oklahoma a misdemeanor with jail time of up to a year, or a fine of $500, or both. The individual would have 72 hours from the time given to them to leave the state and will not be allowed back at any point afterward. The second offense would be a felony. The bill would prohibit the ability of the courts or prosecutors to consider probation, delayed or community sentencing, or a future pathway to citizenship.

Rep. Arturo Alonso-Sandoval, D-Oklahoma City, debated that the bill does nothing for current, longstanding undocumented Oklahomans.

“There are current, undocumented Oklahomans that this bill completely ignores,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “These are people who have been here for decades and contributed millions in tax dollars. The passage of this bill ignores that undocumented Oklahomans pay over $26 million in taxes and provides no way to amend that gap in tax dollars. Not only that, it promotes racial profiling which puts every Oklahoman at risk. Bills like this are rooted in politics, and we come to this building everyday to implement policy for the betterment of Oklahomans. This bill puts politics over policy.” 

Rep. Annie Menz, D-Norman, argued that the bill would cost Oklahomans and put strains on law enforcement officers compelled to abide by the bill.

“Police in Oklahoma are already stretched thin, and this bill would put more on their shoulders without providing any additional funding or tools for them.” Menz said. “This bill is expensive, unenforceable, and encourages people to leave the State of Oklahoma, which would have drastic effects on our workforce and economy. It will also certainly be challenged in the courts which will take money out of the pockets of all Oklahomans. No one is rejecting the idea that there are challenges at our southern border, but there are better solutions to address immigration. This bill could have done something good. Rep. Alonso-Sandoval and I both offered amendments to make this bill good policy. The author chose to miss the opportunity and keep it the way it is—grimly absurd." 

Alonso-Sandoval and Menz both attempted to file separate amendments on the bill. 

Alonso-Sandoval’s would have included provisions to give access to a state ID or driver license to those individuals who comply with specific requirements, including paying state and federal income tax, verifying their identity with the state, registering their address, and submitting a fingerprint that would be a part of the largest law enforcement database in the United States.

Menz’s would set up a cause of action for those wrongfully detained under this legislation with liquid damages of up to $10k from the state.

House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, asserts that challenges at the border are a federal issue, and there are state solutions we can focus on instead.

“Securing the border is the responsibility of the federal government,” Munson said. “It is clear that this legislation is a political tactic meant to promote the GOP during an election year. Oklahoma is already an unattractive state thanks to the Republican Supermajority. We do not have the power to implement immigration solutions, but we can focus on ways to help those who are undocumented in Oklahoma. We want people to stay in Oklahoma and build families here, and this legislation directly negates that. There are real state solutions we could be providing, but instead Republican leaders have decided to focus on divisive legislation that would harm all Oklahomans, prioritizing their power, not the people of our state."


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