OKLAHOMA'S CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION DRAWS TEXAS LAWMAKERS' INTEREST
February 14, 2008
Last year, Oklahoma's Legislature passed, by huge margins, the nation's toughest law on illegal immigrants, making it a felony to harbor, transport, shelter or conceal undocumented immigrants. This summer, the same law also will allow U.S. citizens to sue employers if they think they were fired in favor of illegal workers.
Meanwhile, some Texas lawmakers are already promising bills that mirror Oklahoma's House Bill 1804. State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler), said the Oklahoma measure has proved that even as Congress deadlocks on immigration, a state can protect itself against what he calls threats to public health and safety posed by a porous border.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there were between 50,000 and 75,000 illegal immigrants in Oklahoma nearly two years ago, with 20 times more -- as many as 1.6 million -- in Texas.
Last year, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a law that:
- Restricts illegal immigrants' access to driver's licenses and ID cards.
- Cuts off several forms of public assistance for illegal immigrants. Emergency medical care, disaster aid and certain immunizations are exempted.
- Makes it harder for illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition.
- Encourages state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.
- Makes it a felony to harbor, transport, conceal or shelter illegal immigrants.
- Requires state and local governments to use a federal database that allows them to check potential employees' work eligibility.
- Starting this summer, private employers and government contractors will have to verify employment eligibility of all new hires. Employers who don't could be sued.
This year, Oklahoma lawmakers are considering bills that would:
- Designate English as the state's official language.
- Let law enforcement seize the property of those who transport, hire or rent to illegal immigrants.
- Make public schools report how many illegal-immigrant children are enrolled.
Source: Robert T. Garrett, "Oklahoma's crackdown on illegal immigration draws Texas lawmakers' interest; Crackdown on illegal immigration draws criticism, Texas interest," Dallas Morning News, February 13, 2008.
Browse more articles on Government Issues