Oklahoma's new immigration reform law took effect on Thursday, November 1. Opponents of immigration reform are protesting, claiming local law enforcement now cannot be trusted. Police and Sheriff's deputies say the fears are unfounded, and only illegal immigrants doing illegal things need worry about the law. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports there has been so much misinformation about what will happen, some of it out of fear, some just plain confusion, because the law has not been clarified by the courts.
Employment opportunity is the big draw for immigrants, who can usually earn more in America than their home country. The new immigration law requires employers verify a new employees citizenship. That employer verification takes effect in July. After that, government agencies and private firms doing government work will have to verify their employees have a valid Social Security number. Existing federal law already says employers cannot knowingly hire illegal immigrants, but the state law requires the extra step of verification.
The new law requires an immigration status check on people who are under arrest. Some Hispanics worry anytime they encounter law enforcement they are subject to an immigration check, but police say only people without a drivers license need to worry. During a traffic stop, drivers without a license are typically arrested, and illegal immigrants are no exception. Law enforcement authorities say they will not check immigration status for routine matters like reporting crimes or helping police with information.
Some have questioned if a citizen could be arrested for simply driving an illegal immigrant in their car. The new law makes it a state crime to knowingly transport illegal immigrants, but it was already against federal law. The law does not apply to public transportation or to situations where the status is unknown. Lawyers say the law is intended to stop human trafficking and is likely to be enforced only against people trying to hide illegals.
That brings up the point of housing for illegals, some of whom claim they are being evicted from apartments because of the new law. The new immigration law prohibits sheltering illegal immigrants, but landlords are bound by federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on national origin. Even lawyers studying the issue say it is unclear who would enforce this section of the law by checking records of landlords.
The police and Sheriff's Office both said Thursday that nothing changed overnight in the way they enforce the laws, but some Hispanics worry about round ups and roadblocks, which deputies and police say is not going to happen.
Originally aired 11/1/2007 4:55 PM - Updated 11/1/2007 6:20 PM