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Green Country Hispanics Fight New Immigration Bill

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Hispanic groups are speaking out against an immigration reform bill in the State House. Hispanic groups are speaking out against an immigration reform bill in the State House.

Hispanic groups hope to speak with one voice against a crackdown on illegal immigration. A bill in the State Legislature could create penalties for companies that hire illegals, and eliminate a college tuition subsidy for young people who can't prove their citizenship. Lawmakers are working under the belief that illegal immigrants are costing the state money and jobs, and Hispanics say that's just not true.

The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports it's an issue state lawmakers say they have to address, because Congress will not.

As lawmakers in the state Legislature talk and vote on bills that address illegal immigration, another group is debating what to do about the Legislature. Tulsa's American Dream Coalition wants to gather Hispanic and other minority groups into a political force that can change what the Legislature does about illegal immigrants.

"It is a problem, let's face it, but we need to understand the nature of the problem," said Rev. Victor Orta with the American Dream Coalition.

Orta already has some Hispanic business leaders, media and religious groups united against what's being talked about in Oklahoma City.

"We have thousands of illegal immigrants coming across our southern border every day," Representative Randy Terrill said. "It's simply an issue of right and wrong."

Last week a State House Committee approved the immigration bill, but it's still a long way from becoming law. The author believes it would discourage immigrants from coming to Oklahoma, and on that Hispanic leaders agree.

"If the undocumented people are aware that Oklahoma has these harsh laws, then they will not be coming here," Orta said. "And so there are companies that cannot operate without the help."

There is sharp division already in the legislature, and in the state on the immigration issue, enough to ensure hard lobbying by both sides. The immigration bill is likely to be changed, and it's up for debate in the State House Wednesday afternoon. To read House Bill No. 1804 click here.

Originally aired 3/5/2007 10:44 AM - Updated 3/6/2007 8:14 AM

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