Oklahoma House passes bill making illegal immigration a state crime


(The Center Square) – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would make illegal immigration a state crime after a heated debate where one Democrat called the bill “extremist legislation.”

House Bill 4156 makes “impermissible occupation” a criminal act, defined as a person willfully and without permission entering and remaining in Oklahoma without first obtaining legal authorization to enter the United States, according to the bill.

It passed its third reading by a 77-20 vote and now moves on to the Senate for consideration.

If signed into law, those living in Oklahoma as illegal immigrants would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

Anyone found guilty would be required to leave the state within 72 hours following conviction or release from custody, whichever comes later, according to the bill.

“This bill is a license to profile, to arrest people who are different, plain and simple,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City. “The bill itself says these people are drug dealers, they’re rapists, they traffic in drugs and they traffic in people. Painting with a broad brush, it says people are evil, sub-human, not worthy.”

Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City said immigration was the new abortion issue and called the bill “extremist legislation,” adding that securing the border and addressing immigration challenges was a federal issue.

“When the federal government abdicates their responsibility for the safety of our citizens, that’s when it’s incumbent upon this body to pick up those responsibilities,” said Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Tulsa, countered.

Rep. Arturo Alonso-Sandoval, D-Oklahoma City, was that it made no provisions for illegal immigrants who have lived in the state for a long time.

“There are current, undocumented Oklahomans that this bill completely ignores,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “These are people who have been here for decades and contributed millions in tax dollars. The passage of this bill ignores that undocumented Oklahomans pay over $26 million in taxes and provides no way to amend that gap in tax dollars.”

Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said the bill was “common sense.”

“Joe Biden’s federal government said 180 terrorists were found going through the asylum process getting into this country. Imagine how many walk through that border today,” said Echols. “And don’t give me this garbage that somehow saying that 180 terrorists were arrested means that you’re calling everyone a terrorist. My third grader knows better than that yet that’s the level of political debate we seem to have in this country. To act like we are not in danger as a result of what is happening is foolish.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond released a statement Thursday backing the bill, calling accusations of “race-baiting and political pandering” a smokescreen.

“Where the federal government is failing, our state leaders are stepping up to solve the problem and protect Oklahomans,” Drummond said. “I am grateful to Speaker McCall and Pro Tempore Treat for advancing HB 4156. I am hopeful that it will pass both chambers and be signed by the Governor as soon as possible.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a similar bill into law on April 10. A Texas law is being challenged in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans heard arguments on SB 4 earlier this month.

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