House votes down immigration bill

Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, says he won't bring up his anti-illegal immigration House Bill 1446 again this session, which could end as early as Friday. He says he will try to bring the issue up again next year.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 18, 2011
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Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives joined together Tuesday to reject by a 2-1 margin an anti-illegal immigration bill.

Republicans mostly complained it was a watered-down version that did nothing to crack down on illegal immigration in the state while Democrats said either they opposed the concept altogether or asked that lawmakers spend more time on the issue.

The House voted 62-31 to reject a conference report on the latest version of House Bill 1446, which is the only anti-illegal immigration measure left alive this session.

The measure's author, Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, made a motion to table the bill, a move that would keep the measure alive so it could be brought up again next year.

Is this the bill's end?

Faught said HB 1446 won't be brought up again this session, which could end as soon as Friday.

“It won't be heard,” he said. “It is disappointing because it was obviously misinterpreted.”

The bill's defeat is a blow to Republican legislative leaders who formed a special joint committee on immigration to develop legislation. Bills intended to mirror strict anti-immigration measures in a law approved last year in Arizona didn't advance far this year.

It's vindication for Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who debated against the measure. Terrill, the author of the state's anti-immigration laws that were part of House Bill 1804 which passed in 2007, was shut out of this year's process to draft anti-illegal immigration legislation.

Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa, said HB 1446 failed to go after employers who hired illegal immigrants.

Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said the measure didn't give local law enforcement officers the ability to enforce whether immigrants are legally in the state. He said law officers in southeastern Oklahoma could arrest 200 illegal immigrants a day, but it's pointless because the counties have no money to hold them in jails.

“We've got to go after the employers,” Bennett said. “This bill's not going to fix anything.”

Bill was toned down

HB 1446 is toned down from earlier versions, which included portions of an anti-illegal immigration law passed last year in Arizona. Also gone from the bill are provisions that bar children of illegal immigrants from receiving tuition assistance for postsecondary education, allow state agencies to report illegal immigrants who apply for state or federal aid, and require employers to verify the immigration status of potential employees. Additional deletions included outlawing the practice of illegal immigrants seeking work as independent contractors, and making it a crime to pick up illegal immigrants for the purpose of employing them.