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Oklahoma Senate Passes "Arizona-Plus" Bill (Mar 17, 2011)

What some legislators call “Arizona-plus legislation” passed in the Oklahoma Senate Wednesday. But before that vote took place, two Senators on opposite sides of the measure debated its consequences in Norman.

KGOU’s Logan Layden was at the Immigration in the Heartland Conference where the bill’s author, Republican Ralph Shortey, and Senate Democratic leader Andrew Rice met.

In addition to the possible seizure of personal property, Arizona-plus gives police the authority to make warrantless arrests of those suspected of being undocumented. Senator Shortey, whose district is in south Oklahoma City, says, as a Native American, he’s sensitive to concerns about racial profiling and that his bill contains provisions against it.

“Things like race, gender, national origin cannot be a determining factor in whether or not a person questions the immigration status of somebody who’s driving a vehicle,” he said. “They have to have probable cause. If they’re not able to produce that driver’s license, at that point, then, they can move on. That would be probable cause.”

Still, Shortey acknowledges that some racial profiling might still occur, “Now, I wish I could say that racial profiling is not going to happen. Like I say, even in south Oklahoma City there are pure racists.”

But Senator Rice, who is white and wearing a suit during the discussion, says the measure specifically targets Hispanics.

“If I’m dressed like this and I’m driving from my home to downtown Oklahoma City to a meeting in my Toyota Camry hybrid, and I happen to forget my wallet on the mantel, which I often sometimes do, and I get pulled over for speeding, do you think that the Oklahoma City police officer is going to ask me for further documentation to see if I’m a legal residence of the United States?”

Beyond profiling, Rice says the Arizona-plus measure sends the wrong message to Oklahoma’s Hispanic community.

“If you really want everybody to be scared into leaving Oklahoma, think about what the, from a selfish standpoint, think about what the ramifications are going to be for your quality of life.”

Rice also says Oklahoma needs migrant workers. He says there is no proof that undocumented workers are taking jobs away from legal residents.

“”They don’t want to go to Guymon, Oklahoma and slaughter cows. They don’t want to go to Stillwell, Oklahoma and pick lettuce,” Rice said. “Those jobs are being put on the open market and non-Hispanic American citizens are not taking them.”

But Shortey says he has to listen to the constituents in his district, who are calling for strong action to curb illegal immigration. He says those he represents are more worried about getting shot by an illegal alien who is in a gang.

The Arizona-plus legislation, SB 908, passed the Senate by a vote of 29-15 and now heads to the House, which last week approved its own tough illegal immigration bill.

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