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Oklahoma Voices:
The Pros, Cons and Impacts of Oklahoma’s New Immigration Law (Mar 15, 2008)

Last November, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007 – commonly known as House Bill 1804 – went into effect. At the time of its implementation, it was characterized as among the strictest anti-illegal immigration measures in the nation. The law makes it a felony to knowingly aid, transport or conceal undocumented immigrants, creates barriers to hiring them and requires proof of citizenship for immigrants to receive certain government benefits including drivers’ licenses.

It appeared as though immigration would continue to be a big issue this legislative session. State lawmakers in both the House and Senate filed a dozen bills aimed at both further cracking down on illegal immigrants and repealing portions of HB 1804. There were also measures introduced to make English the official language of Oklahoma. But amid uncertainty over 1804’s economic impact and growing opposition from the business community – including a legal challenge from the US Chamber of Commerce, the State Chamber and the Chambers of Tulsa and Greater Oklahoma City – legislative leaders as well as Governor Brad Henry opted to take a wait-and-see approach. In the end, none of the immigration-related bills introduced this session survived a deadline of last Thursday to pass out of their house of origin. State Representative Randy Terrill – who authored HB 1804 – still hopes to amend further anti-illegal immigration measures to a Senate bill, but political observers say it’s unlikely at this point he’ll be successful.

As the debate continues over how states like Oklahoma should respond to illegal immigration, we’ll spend the next Oklahoma Voices hearing various points of view on the issue. First, we listen to an extended interview KGOU conducted with Representative Terrill last October on why he authored House Bill 1804 and how he responds to some of the concerns voiced by critics.

Then we’ll hear a speech State Representative Shane Jett delivered last month before a joint meeting of the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council and the Governor’s Council on Latin American and Hispanic Affairs. Jett was the only House Republican to oppose HB 1804 (though he didn’t vote on the measure). He calls it a “natural over-reaction and backlash to the federal government’s dereliction of its duty to solve the immigration problem,” but says that any law “whose primary fallout is fear is bad legislation.”

Finally, we’ll listen back to excerpts from two town hall meetings (pictured above) on the new law that were held last December and January at Santa Fe South Junior High School in South Oklahoma City. A bilingual panel of community leaders responds to questions from the mostly Hispanic audience about the effects and implications of HB 1804.

Read the text of HB1804

View the Community Action Project’s detailed analysis of the law
(PDF file)

Read State Rep. Shane Jett’s proposal for what he calls “meaningful immigration reform” that provides both incentives and punishments for undocumented immigrants (PDF file)

Listen to a report by KGOU’s Kurt Gwartney and Scott Gurian on the implementation of HB 1804 last November

Listen to a report KGOU aired last December on HB 1804’s effects on businesses in Oklahoma City’s Hispanic neighborhood of Capitol Hill

Listen to this entire Oklahoma Voices program:

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