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Stitt signs controversial immigration bill despite opponents' criticism

Governor Kevin Stitt
Posted at 6:51 PM, Apr 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-30 20:49:56-04

TULSA, Okla. — Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law HB4156, a controversial immigration bill giving authorities the ability to incarcerate someone in the state based on their undocumented status if suspected of a crime.

Stitt released the following statement on April 30 in English and Spanish:

“I am disappointed this bill is necessary. Since President Biden took office in 2021, more than 10 million people have poured over the southern border. Countless individuals from across the globe, including thousands of Chinese nationals as well as people affiliated with terror organizations, have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Oklahomans are concerned by who could be lying in wait for an opportunity to bring harm to our country.”

“My sole aim is to protect all four million Oklahomans, regardless of race, ethnicity, or heritage. I love Oklahoma’s Hispanic community and I want to ensure that every law-abiding citizen has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Let me be clear – there is no tolerance for racism or discrimination against any community in our state. I want our Hispanic community to rest assured that this law does not give law enforcement the authority to profile individuals or question them about their immigration status without reasonable suspicion of a crime.

“Furthermore, this is an opportunity for our state to continue to find solutions where the federal government has failed. That is why I am launching the Oklahoma State Work Permits and Visas (OSWPV) Task Force to find ways to bolster our workforce and create opportunities for those who are here contributing to our communities and economy. As I’ve said many times, governors should have more authority over the H1-B visa process so we can better address the workforce needs of our economies. This task force will be a step in that direction.”

2 News has previously heard from multiple local organizations representing immigrants that strongly oppose it.

HB 4156 would criminalize any person without legal immigration status. Penalties include hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines plus jail time and a requirement to leave the state.

According to the draft, authorities could enforce this anywhere in the state. It's already passed the Oklahoma House and Senate along party lines.

Similar bills were signed into law by governors in Iowa and Texas, but a federal judge in Texas is currently reviewing it.

State Attorney General Gentner Drummond posted in a release that he directed the legislature to come up with a version that would hold up in court, calling the reason a matter of public safety.

“The State Senate sent a clear message today that public safety is a priority in Oklahoma. The Biden Administration has been utterly derelict in its duty to enforce federal law. If the president won’t secure the nation’s border, then our state must step in to protect Oklahomans. I appreciate President Pro Tempore Treat and Speaker McCall for their swift work on this bill and I encourage Gov. Stitt to sign it into law.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond

Meanwhile, rights groups like the Oklahoma ACLU are campaigning against it, calling it unconstitutional.

2 News has learned that several local outreach organizations are planning to send an open letter to the governor urging him not to sign it.

One of them is El Centro in east Tulsa, whose board of directors chairman Rev. Alvaro Nova said the bill is rooted in fear to cause fear in the immigrant community.

"The House of Representatives of Oklahoma and also the Oklahoma Senate is sending a clear message to the community that they don't like us here," Rev. Nova said. "So it's very sad, unconstitutional, and immoral."

The Tulsa Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce even dedicated a segment of its luncheon April 25 to bash the bill, reading its statement against it out loud as well as its keynote speaker slamming it.

Rev. Nova said these messages are what the governor should listen to, while the attorney general argues making HB4156 a law would protect the state from what often comes out of the southern border like drugs and illegal marijuana trafficking.

"We know the people we serve," Rev. Nova added. "We know the people in our community. We know the value of this community is for the society."

2 News also contacted multiple local Asian-American immigrant community groups for comment on the bill but didn't hear back.

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