Oklahoma cracks down: Il­le­gal aliens tar­get of strict new law

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan and Jerry Seper

The na­tion’s strictest im­mi­gra­tion crack­down went into ef­fect Nov. 1 in Oklahoma af­ter a fed­eral judge re­fused His­panic and im­mi­grants rights groups’ at­tempt to block it.

The new law pre­vents il­le­gal aliens from get­ting driver’s li­censes, de­nies them ev­ery pos­si­ble pub­lic ser­vice or ben­e­fit not re­quired by fed­eral law, gives state and lo­cal po­lice the abil­ity to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws and, be­gin­ning next year, re­quires em­ploy­ers to check new em­ploy­ees’ iden­ti­ties through a fed­eral data­base.

“It is the tough­est state-level im­mi­gra­tion re­form bill in the na­tion,” said state Rep. Randy Ter­rill, the Repub­li­can who wrote House Bill 1804. “The judge has ef­fec­tively val­i­dated this approach, and he has ef­fec­tively given the green light to other states to be­gin to pro­ceed with mea­sures that are sim­i­lar to House Bill 1804.”

As im­por­tant as the new law was the de­ci­sion by U.S. Dis­trict Judge James H. Payne, who re­jected im­mi­grants rights groups’ re­quest for an in­junc­tion. In his rul­ing on Oct. 31, Judge Payne said the groups didn’t have any ev­i­dence to sup­port their claims of harm.

The judge al­lowed the law to take ef­fect while the case pro­ceeds. The par­ties will be back in court this week.

It was the sec­ond time Judge Payne re­jected a chal­lenge, and Mr. Ter­rill said that’s a tes­ta­ment to how care­fully the law was drafted not to step on fed­eral agen­cies’ toes or to dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of race or eth­nic­ity.

“Op­po­nents to House Bill 1804 have now had more than six months to plain­tiff-shop, fo­rum-shop and judge-shop to try to find some­one who’s sym­pa­thetic to their cause. They haven’t had much suc­cess,” Mr. Ter­rill said.

Juan Miret, a spokesman for the United Front Task Force, a group fight­ing the law, said op­po­nents are putting to­gether other cases to chal­lenge the law.

“The prob­lem with 1804 is it was a wrong an­swer for a very com­plex mat­ter,” he said. “We’re talk­ing about hu­man rights and civil rights.”

Mr. Miret said the fail­ures of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agen­cies have cre­ated prob­lems that could end up with le­gal im­mi­grants be­ing de­tained.

He said that could hap­pen to some­one who is a green-card holder, or who ap­plied on time for a re­newed card, but whose ap­pli­ca­tion is de­layed by a back­log of cases. If that per­son is pulled over, he said, po­lice have a dilemma.

“Prob­a­bly they will be de­port­ing some­body who has the right to live and work in the United States. This is the kind of mess we’re deal­ing with,” Mr. Miret said.

About 500 pro­test­ers, most of them His­panic, came to the state Capi­tol to protest the law, which has drawn fire from re­li­gious lead­ers and im­mi­grants rights groups.

Other states — no­tably Ari­zona and Ge­or­gia — also have passed laws crack­ing down on il­le­gal en­try, as have some lo­cal­i­ties. Rul­ings on those reg­u­la­tions have been mixed, in­clud­ing a judge who over­turned an ef­fort in Ha­zle­ton, Pa., to try to pre­vent land­lords from rent­ing to il­le­gal aliens.

The ad­verse rul­ings have said im­mi­gra­tion is a re­spon­si­bil­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, not states.

But the Oklahoma law was writ­ten care­fully to get around those pro­hi­bi­tions by weav­ing to­gether places where the state has a right to act in such a way that can “func­tion­ally crim­i­nal­ize” il­le­gal en­try, Mr. Ter­rill said.

Some states are go­ing the other di­rec­tion. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has an­nounced his state will is­sue driver’s li­censes to some il­le­gal aliens, while Illi­nois passed a law block­ing com­pa­nies from us­ing fed­eral data­bases to check em­ploy­ees’ work el­i­gi­bil­ity.

But in Oklahoma, the crack­down is ex­tremely pop­u­lar.

The law passed with bi­par­ti­san veto-proof ma­jori­ties in the state’s House and Se­nate and was signed by Gov. Brad Henry, a Demo­crat. Mr. Ter­rill said polls show it has the sup­port of three-quar­ters of state vot­ers.

He said he ex­pects dozens of other states to fol­low Oklahoma’s lead.

“The states have al­ways been the great lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­racy. Whether it was wel­fare re­form in the mid- to late-1990s or whether it’s im­mi­gra­tion in 2007, peo­ple shouldn’t be sur­prised that when the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can’t or won’t act, peo­ple of the state of Oklahoma will step up to the plate and hit the home run,” Mr. Ter­rill said. “States have al­ways filled that pol­icy vac­uum.”

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