Immigration law's support shows strain
HB 1804: Dissent grows

By Devona Walker Modified: December 3, 2007 at 5:23 am •  Published: December 3, 2007
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As some consider fortifying the toughest immigration enforcement law in the nation, the base supporting the controversial measure appears to be fracturing.

House Bill 1804 passed un- equivocally in the Oklahoma Legislature. Even now, many still support it. But dissent is seeping into Republican leadership, and it's spilling out into the street.

"I'm very concerned,” said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. "I see the problem, and I agree something has to be done. But I believe we are going about it the wrong way. What's the collateral damage of all this going to be?”

HB 1804 denies driver's licenses and public services to illegal immigrants and criminalizes transporting, concealing and harboring illegal immigrants from detection or in reckless disregard of their citizenship status.

The ‘Son of HB 1804'
"Son of House Bill 1804” is a proposal that would bolster the existing law. Its centerpiece is a provision designating English as the official language of the state.

Rep. Randy Terrill, author of HB 1804, said his newest proposal also will allow law enforcement to seize the assets of those prosecuted under the statute. It also will likely include a "taxpayer transparency in education as it relates to illegal aliens” provision.

"How many illegal aliens are in what school districts? How much is it costing taxpayers and whether it is having an adverse effect on our ability to educate own American citizens' children,” said Terill, R-Moore. "That's money that can be used for teacher pay raises, capital improvements and any other reason as opposed to educating children who shouldn't be here in the first place.”

The most controversial provision would deny birth certificates to children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents.

The federal government guarantees this right through the 14th Amendment. This provision would legally challenge the federal government's interpretation.

"I don't agree with the notion of birthright citizenship,” Terrill said. "That is my motive, that is why I am actively looking into it.”

That provision might not make it into proposed legislation, he concedes.

Support waning
The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce has remained relatively neutral on Oklahoma's immigration law.

But it has since lost some of that neutrality.

"We never said we supported that bill,” said Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations for the State Chamber.

Immigration is a national policy debate that is being decided by an "Internet populace,” Seney said. "The two extremes are handling the debate, and the people in the middle are confused, wondering what is going on.