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Oklahoma targeted illegal immigrants

By STEVE OLAFSON
April 28, 2011

(AP Photo/Ed Betz)

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would create criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who work in Oklahoma and those who smuggle them into the state.

It would also give police officers more authority to question citizenship status of suspects.

The bill, approved by a 37-8 vote, originated in the Oklahoma House and underwent revisions in the Senate. The two chambers must reconcile differences in the bill before it can go to Governor Mary Fallin. Senators faced a deadline on Thursday to pass bills that originate in the House.

Oklahoma is one of several states — including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — where Republicans are pushing immigration measures reminiscent of the one that became law in Arizona a year ago. The Arizona law required police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.

Under the Oklahoma measure, local police officers trained through a federal program would be authorized to ask about immigration status.

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for undocumented immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work in a public place. Convictions could result in up to a year in jail and/or a $500 fine.

In addition, the measure:

– Targets the common practice of employers hiring day workers who gather along roadways by making it a misdemeanor to stop a vehicle in a roadway and impede traffic while picking up workers. In addition, it prohibits undocumented workers from entering vehicles stopped in a roadway.

– Prohibits employers from hiring workers who do not have proper identification issued by state or federal authorities, but it does not call for any specific punishment for violations.

– Makes human smuggling for profit a felony offense punishable by no less than a year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine; it also allows for the forfeiture of vehicles used to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.

– Repeals a section of Oklahoma law that enables undocumented immigrants in the state to pay in-state tuition for college.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters