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Monday, July 9, 2007

Aiding an illegal immigrant will soon be a felony in Oklahoma

Felony - One of several grave crimes, such as murder, rape, or burglary, punishable by a more stringent sentence than that given for a misdemeanor.

American Heritage Dictionary

With the collapse of a federal compromise on immigration reform, state and local governments are stepping in to fill the void. In a July 9, 2007 article released on MSNBC, Kari Huus reports on Oklahoma’s House Bill 1804, a piece of anti-immigration legislation that will go into effect on November 1, 2007 and is “arguably the toughest in the nation.”

An excerpt from the MSNBC article:

In May, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed into law HB 1804, also known as the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007. The law, which is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1, makes it a felony to “knowingly transport, move … conceal, shelter or harbor” an illegal immigrant.

The law, which proclaims that “the State of Oklahoma finds that illegal immigration is causing economic hardship and lawlessness in this state,” requires companies that do contract work for the state to conduct stringent background checks to avoid hiring illegal immigrants. Other companies would open themselves to discrimination suits if they hired illegal workers over legal residents.

It also includes tough language requiring government agencies to ensure they are not providing services such as food stamps to those illegally in the country, though those services are already theoretically denied under federal law.

Opposition to this and other anti-immigrant measures in Oklahoma have come from an unexpected source: local police officers. According to the article, Tulsa’s police chief feels arresting undocumented workers will distract police from attending to serious crimes. In addition, a 30-year beat cop, Mark Wollmershauser, said he “could easily envision a scenario in which the teen daughter of an illegal immigrant is raped, but the family is afraid to report it, leaving the perpetrator on the street.”

This common sense advice has failed to dissuade those blinded by xenophobia. As Dan Howard, a nativist radio host quoted in the article explains on his website Outraged, proponents of HB 1804 are more concerned with “the battle that most threatens our heritage today ... the War Against Illegal Immigration.”

And these “outraged patriots” are willing to make felons out of anyone who disagrees with them.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Photo courtesy MSNBC