An immigration reform bill signed by the governor yesterday establishes Oklahoma as the nation’s leader in taking action on the hot-button issue.
Last night, Governor Brad Henry signed House Bill 1804 that recently passed both the House and the Senate by a vast majority.
"We were forced to take action at the state level because of the total lack of action by the federal government on this issue," said State Sen. Jim Williamson, R-Tulsa).
HB 1804, The Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, has been in the hands of Henry since May 2.
It has been called the single most significant step that any state has taken in this area and one of the nation’s toughest anti-illegal immigration laws.
"It’s about time we started looking out for the interests of millions of Oklahoma taxpayers," said Speaker of the House Lance Cargill (R-Harrah).
"There are many Oklahomans who work hard and play by the rules every day, but they still struggle to make ends meet. Those are the people we should be looking out for. This important new immigration reform ensures that we’re upholding the rule of law in Oklahoma.
“Our citizens deserve nothing less. Today is a victory for common-sense reform, and we applaud the efforts of Rep. Randy Terrill, who has led the way on this issue. We have now delivered the toughest immigration reform bill in the entire country."
1804 has the overwhelming support of two national immigration reform advocacy groups: The Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
IRLI is the only public interest law firm in the United States devoted exclusively to protecting the rights and interests of United States citizens in immigration-related matters.
"Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) worked with IRLI over a period of several years to refine the wording of this important legislation," said Sharma Hammond, Staff Attorney at IRLI.
"It was carefully crafted and it is a very fair bill. It is the first of its kind in the nation."
Hammond said that IRLI played an important role in making sure that the bill wouldn’t step on the due process rights of individuals and maintained compliance with the constitution.
"This bill is tough on lawbreakers and protects the rights of the ordinary citizen," Hammond said.
"This breakthrough legislation represents the clear will of the people of Oklahoma. It is a strong reform measure that is a major step in the right direction," said Cargill.
"We have a duty to uphold Oklahoma’s rule of law. Illegal immigration is a hidden tax on hardworking families in this state. It’s costing us hundreds of millions of dollars a year."
The estimated annual fiscal costs to Oklahoma taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration resulting from illegal, or "guest," workers is currently $207 million.
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