Oklahoma's House Bill 1804 that goes into effect Thursday has already impacted the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, which has a high Hispanic population.
Trinna Burrows, executive director of Kendall-Whittier Inc. and chairwoman of the Kendall-Whittier Hispanic Alliance, said 60 percent of the neighborhood was Hispanic before HB 1804.
Kendall-Whittier Elementary School's student population was 55.4 percent Hispanic in October 2006, according to Tulsa Public Schools data. Judy Feary, principal at Kendall-Whittier, 2601 E. Fifth Place, said enrollment is usually a little more than 1,000 students.
At the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, 958 students were enrolled, and by Oct. 1, that number had dropped to 925, Feary said.
"Many children told us they would be leaving over intercession (Oct. 29 through Nov. 9)," she said. "I have lost one teacher since the beginning of school. I stand to lose two more because enrollment has dropped."
HB 1804, an immigration reform bill, includes ending public assistance for illegal immigrants, penalizing employers who knowingly hire and people who harbor illegal immigrants, and authorizing law enforcement officers to run additional immigration checks on people they arrest.
Wednesday, a federal court was to consider another constitutional challenge to the house bill.
Reactions to the bill have impacted not only the neighborhood school but also businesses and churches.
Antonio Perez, who owns Las Americas, 2415 E. Admiral Place, said sales are sliding at his Hispanic grocery store.
"We've lost already about 20 percent of our business, maybe more," Perez said. "To a certain point, if we lose half our business, I don't think we can make it."
Perez said some of his customers are moving to Arkansas, Nevada, California or Mexico.
"They were afraid they would be arrested," he said.
The Rev. David Medina, pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 2434 E. Admiral Blvd., said attendance at the church, which has seven Masses in Spanish on Sunday, has decreased by about 10 percent.
"We receive more calls because they don't want to go out," Medina said. "We go to their houses and pray."
Tim O'Keefe, Tulsa Police Department officer and department liaison with the Kendall-Whittier Task Force, said the department's only procedural change will be that officers will run an additional check when someone is arrested.
"We're not going door to door doing checks," O'Keefe said. "We're business as usual."
Burrows said some people are misinformed about the bill.
"There's a lot of unfounded fears, but I think I would be lying if I told people they have nothing to be afraid about," Burrows said.
Feary said students at the school are talking with each other about the possibility of moving.
"There's a lot of uneasiness. Children are stressed; families are stressed," she said. "There's been a lot more referrals for counseling services this year."
Medina said a lack of trust has grown in the neighborhood.
District 4 City Councilor and Kendall-Whittier Neighborhood Association President Maria Barnes said people in the neighborhood are concerned.
"For us to do what we do, we still have to come together as a community, as a neighborhood," Barnes said. "I just hope it gets better, and we don't have people living in fear."
Perez, who owns four grocery stores in the Tulsa area, said a decline in his business started in June.
"We were planning on opening more (stores), but at this point, everything's on hold," he said.
"(Customers) keep asking me what is going to happen. It's very uncertain with this new law."
Funding is also uncertain at Kendall-Whittier Elementary, Feary said.
"In January, if the population falls, we might lose funding from the district," she said. "Funding for next year is determined by this year's population."
Feary said the school could also lose an assistant principal and clerk by the end of the year if enrollment continues to drop.
Burrows said it's a challenge trying to help families affected by the bill.
"There are no easy answers, I know that, trying to care for families in the middle of the storm," she said.
Medina said HB 1804 is creating a negative attitude toward the U.S. among children who are legal citizens but whose parents aren't.
"I see in the kids who live here a sense of fear in their home country," he said. "This law is damaging the vision and love of the next generation of this country."
Feary said the bill most affects children and families.
"We see it as a human problem, not a political problem," she said.