Immigration law effect called minimal
BY MICK HINTON World Capitol Bureau
Sunday, August 19, 2007
8/19/07 at 6:56 AM
Document: See the Community Action Project of Tulsa County's issuebrief
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma's new immigration law,
touted as the toughest in the
nation, just nips at those with
questionable legal status, the
public policy director for an
antipoverty agency says.
"There is a lot of sound and
fury in the new law, but when
you look carefully at it, in reality, its practical and legal impact will be minimal," said David Blatt of the Community
Action Project of Tulsa County.
However, Rep. Randy Terrill, chief author of House Bill
1804, said that "anyone who
provides a job, shelter or public benefits to illegal aliens after Nov. 1 does so at their own
Terrill, R-Moore, said harboring an illegal alien would
apply only in circumstances
where a person was clearly
helping an immigrant to
thwart the law, but would not
include such things as driving
someone to church.
Blatt said HB 1804 has
caused fear in the Hispanic
community, and riled even those who have been legal for
Provisions will become law
on Nov. 1, addressing public
benefits, law enforcement and
employment of those termed
as "undocumented immigrants."
Last week, the Community
Action Project released an "issue brief" intended to serve as
an informative resource for
businesses, government agencies and advocacy groups and
The purpose of the paper,
Blatt said, is to try to convince
people to continue sending
their children to school, continue accessing emergency
services and convince providers that they can continue offering services for public
The issue brief asserts that
many sections of HB 1804 duplicate or mirror what is already in state or federal law "or simply puts into statute
what is already occurring in
practice in the state."
Terrill, who takes umbrage
at the notion that Oklahoma's
law is redundant, said: "While
some of their observations are
accurate, their conclusions
don't match what anyone else
who has taken a look at the
provisions and characterize it
as the toughest immigration
bill in the nation."
Questions have been raised
about whether some Hispanic
families have been keeping
their children from starting
school this fall, although officials say it is too early to tell.
Blatt said the U.S. Supreme
Court in a landmark case guaranteed the right of all children
to attend school, regardless of
the child or parent's legal status.
Terrill said his bill does not
do anything to challenge that.
"I don't think the INS is going to walk the halls to catch them at school," Terrill said.
The bill requires every state
agency to verify the lawful
presence of anyone over age
14 who applies for a federal,
state, local or public benefit.
Blatt said since the 1990s,
those without legal status
have been denied food
stamps, Medicaid and Medicare.
But the federal government
says many other services including emergency room
care, Head Start for underage
children and immunizations
Terrill said the bill makes it
clear that state agencies need
to do a better job of verifying
the status of those who apply,
requiring more documentation than simply checking a
box on a form. He said those
seeking benefits who do not
have identification will be required to sign an affidavit, and
if they falsify this document,
they will never be eligible for
The bill restricts the issuing
of primary identification documents, such as drivers licenses. Blatt said the only change
the Department of Public Safety will make is to mark licenses as "temporary" for those
here on a work or student permit.
In the employment arena,
public employers will be required after Nov. 1 to utilize a
public verification system, the
Basic Pilot Program. After July 1, 2008, that requirement
will extend to private employers.
Terrill said this will be the
first time that employers will
be obligated to check the legal
status of new employees. He
said some "bad apples" currently are hiring illegals because it is cheaper.
Blatt said the law is silent
about any enforcement mechanism against agencies that
fail to comply with the verification requirement. "It is unclear whether the Basic Pilot
Program is fit to handle the increased volume of verification
requests," he said.
"My hope is, once Nov. 1
rolls around, everyone will realize the practical impact of
this law is fairly limited, and
the fear will go away," Blatt
Mick Hinton (405) 528-2465