Oklahomans press for immigration reform in Washington

Part of a national effort sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other outside groups, Oklahoma business leaders and evangelicals go to Capitol Hill to tell Republicans to act quickly.
by Chris Casteel Modified: October 29, 2013 at 7:51 pm •  Published: October 30, 2013
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— Craig Parker has 10 positions open at the Silver Star Construction Co. in Moore that he could fill quickly with illegal immigrants.

But the company verifies citizenship and has had to turn away applicants for positions as truck drivers, concrete finishers and asphalt plant workers. Meanwhile, he and his competitors are facing labor shortages in Oklahoma, where the unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, he said.

“It's not a glamorous industry what we do,” Parker said Tuesday as he stood outside Rep. James Lankford's congressional office. “We pay well, but it's still a labor position.”

Parker, the vice president of the company, was part of a large group of Oklahoma business executives, Republican Party activists and evangelical leaders on Capitol Hill to talk to U.S. House members about immigration reform.

Parker said he wanted Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, to tell Republican House leaders “to get the process moving.” He said he didn't support “an amnesty program” and that he wanted the nation to have secure borders.

“But we need big gates with legal prospects of them getting across,” he said.

Lydia Gonzalez, of Tulsa, said reform couldn't wait for the next presidential election.

“There's an urgency in the air for it to pass for so many reasons — economically, for families, for businesses, for those who have been waiting years and years and years to become United States citizens,” said Gonzalez, state director of the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

“The system is so broken, the bubble has been burst. It has to be fixed right now.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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