The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed what some lawmakers are calling a 'breakthrough' in immigration reform. The controversial House Bill 1804 is now on Governor Brad Henry's desk. The News On 6's Chris Wright reports on how the Hispanic community is reacting to its passage.
House Bill 1804 passed with the overwhelming support of Oklahoma lawmakers on Tuesday. Those in favor of the bill are calling it perhaps the most meaningful piece of immigration reform in the country.
"It is a message that for those Oklahomans working hard, and playing by the rules in this state, we want to do everything we can to protect and promote your interests," said Speaker of the House Lance Cargill.
If approved by Governor Brad Henry, House Bill 1804 would make it a felony to transport or harbor an illegal alien. The bill also targets those who knowingly employ illegal aliens, after July of next year employers would have to verify the legal status of their workers. The legislation would also require jail officers to verify citizenship or immigration status.
"Frankly we need to get our point across, and this is our last chance," said Sebastian Lantos of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations. Sebastian Lantos says House Bill 1804 is misguided. He believes if approved, the new law will be impossible to enforce, especially for employers. He also says that by making it a felony to harbor an illegal the bill is putting charities and hospitals in a tough position.
"Say I have to refuse harboring to you, I can't transport you to the hospital because you're sick, it just doesn't make any sense," Lantos said.
And while he admits illegal immigration is a problem, Santos says state lawmakers took a major step backward Tuesday.
"Our state is going to enact a law that will mess the judicial systems, law enforcement systems, for what? Just to create more prejudice and problems within our community," said Lantos.
The Senate did amend parts of the original bill. Children of illegals can still receive in-state college tuition aid as long as they provide documentation that they are working towards legal status.
Governor Henry says he supports responsible immigration reform, but will not make a decision on this bill until he has time to review the final version.
Originally aired 5/1/2007 5:00 PM - Updated 5/2/2007 6:14 AM
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