The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill April 27 which would create criminal penalties for undocumented residents who work in Oklahoma and for those who smuggle them into the state.
According to reports, the bill passed on a 37-8 vote and would authorize certain law enforcement officials to question people about their immigration status. A similar measure was part of an immigration bill Arizona passed last year.
State Republicans said such a bill has been long overdue. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, told the Associated Press that this would “empower” law enforcement to end human trafficking.
“In light of the federal government's long-standing failure to deal with national illegal immigration problems and President Obama's unwillingness to enforce federal law, states are left to pursue their own reform measures in order to preserve the rule of law and protect their citizens,” Fallin said.
The state’s Latino population is singing a completely different tune, saying the bill unfairly targets immigrants.
Ed Martinez Jr., chairman of the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told Tulsa, Okla. Fox affiliate KOKI that the law legalizes racial profiling.
“When they stop me and they ask everyone that is in my car to prove their legal status just because we have brown skin, that is racial profiling,” Martinez said. “The concern we have with that in the Hispanic community, that's racial profiling pure and simple.”
According to KOKI, 215 people are currently detained in the Tulsa County Jail on immigration status issues.
The bill will now head to a state legislature conference committee to combine versions of the measure passed by the state House and Senate into a single bill to be presented for Fallin’s signature.