Oklahoma leaders scoff at DOJ threat over state immigration law

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(The Center Square) – Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond called the U.S. Department of Justice’s threat to sue over the state’s immigration law “dubious at best,” and said Monday he is ready to defend it.

House Bill 4156 would allow Oklahoma law enforcement officials to arrest people in the country illegally on new state charges passed by the Legislature last month.

The DOJ sent a letter to Drummond and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt threatening a lawsuit if the state did not “refrain from enforcing the law” when it takes effect July 1.

“HB 4156 is preempted by federal law and violates the United States Constitution,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of DOJ’s Civil Division, said in the letter. “If you have not confirmed by May 20, 2024, that Oklahoma will forbear such enforcement, the United States will pursue all appropriate legal remedies to ensure that Oklahoma does not interfere with the functions of the federal government.”

Drummond shot back at DOJ officials, saying the federal government does not have “exclusive power” regarding immigration.

“Oklahoma is exercising its concurrent and complementary power as a sovereign state to address an ongoing public crisis within its borders through appropriate legislation,” Drummond wrote in a letter. “Put more bluntly, Oklahoma is cleaning up the Biden Administration’s mess through entirely legal means in its own backyard – and will resolutely continue to do so by supplementing federal prohibitions with robust state penalties.”

House Speaker Charles McCall said Monday that Oklahoma is doing what the Biden administration will not.

“I find it laughable that in the Administration’s letter to Gov. Stitt and Attorney General Drummond, they claim Oklahoma is interfering with the function of the federal government on immigration issues,” McCall said in a statement. “There has been nothing but disfunction at the federal level since President Biden took office.”

Gentner said previously the Biden administration’s failure to secure the border has led to a flood of drugs flowing into the state.

The DOJ announced earlier this month it was suing Iowa, which passed a similar law.

“Iowa cannot disregard the U.S. Constitution and settled Supreme Court precedent,” Boynton said in a letter to Iowa officials. “We have brought this action to ensure that Iowa adheres to the framework adopted by Congress and the Constitution for regulation of immigration.” Boynton also penned the letter to Oklahoma officials.

A law passed in Texas is also facing a federal court challenge.

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