Oklahoma introduces Immigration Law HB 1804

11 May

After weeks of protest and unrest HB1804 (House Bill 1804) has come into law in Oklahoma. Following the signing of SB 1070 in Arizona and the high profile reactions to its introduction, it is not surprising that HB1804 has accrued similar sentiment from its citizens.

You can read the bill here at the United Front Task Force website [.rtf and .doc]. The site also contains the Memoradum of Agreement (MOA) between the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) [pdf).

As with the Arizona law there is wrangling between the different parties and officials as to the legitimacy, necessity and scope of this anti-immigration law. The problem of immigration being a federal rather than state issue has again raised its head with the National Coalition of Latino Clergy filing a suit precisely because they see the bill as the state overstepping their authority on a federal matter. Representatives like Randy Terrill, one of the authors of the bill has reiterated the failure of national legislation which has spurred this recent state action on immigration: “The states have to act because the federal government has refused to enforce our nation’s borders and turned every state into a border state,” he told reporters with the Washington Times.

However, NewsOk, an Oklahoma news site has stated that it is too late for legislators to tackle such a huge issue this session.

The Latino community, is duly concerned about the threat of racial profiling. With business members who work within primarily Latino areas claiming massive drops in profits since the introduction of the bill as Latinos stay at home more for fear of deportation. Indeed The Urban Institute, a respected national research organization,  hasjust released a study, commissioned by the National Council of La Raza, titled “Untangling the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act: Consequences for Children and Families” that looks closely at the effects of HB 1804. In it one of the major implications of the bill on the Latino community has been to instil fear; primarily of deportation and thus separation from children.

What it also finds, however, is that most of the legislation – such as the prevention of supplying state aid to undocumented immigrants – has already been in place since the 1990s.

With the furore in Arizona, Oklahoma’s geographical location and a massive budget crisis, why introduce an immigration law now? In Arizona the issue seems to stem primarily from a political manoeuvre to regain lost faith from a primarily republican electorate. But Oklahoma is not a border state, with a far smaller immigrant population, what has spurred politicians into looking at immigration when budgets are the primary problem? Or is that why immigration now seems like a good area to tackle?

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