Where Does Oklahoma Immigration Law Stand?

Thursday, July 29th 2010, 5:45 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Nearly three years ago, Oklahoma engaged in its own heated debate over immigration. Lawmakers eventually passed the controversial House Bill 1804, which, like the Arizona law, was challenged in federal court.

When HB 1804 passed in 2007, it was called 'perhaps the most meaningful' piece of immigration reform in the country. But it now pales in comparison to laws since passed in other states, including Arizona's.

"When you compare the two acts, there are a lot of similarities, but also too there are many differences because 1804 is not as strict nor as comprehensive," said David Sobel, an immigration attorney.

4/28/2010 Related Story: Oklahoma's Immigration Law No Longer Toughest In Nation

HB 1804 prevents illegals from obtaining drivers licenses and benefits. Harboring or transporting an illegal is now a felony, and public companies must use the e-verify system to confirm the immigration status of new hires.

But a temporary injunction upheld by a federal court earlier this year struck down parts of the law.

Businesses cannot be fined for hiring illegal aliens, and contractors cannot be required to withhold taxes for workers without proper documentation.

Local activists say the law has had a negative effect on the Hispanic community, and had hoped the federal government had struck down more of 1804.

"Immigration law belongs to Congress. Not to a state, not to a county or a city," said Reverend Victor Orta, state coordinator of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders.

Speaking strictly from a legal standpoint, David Sobel says Orta is right.

"You cannot usurp or take a position that is contrary to federal law or takes over federal law," Sobel said.

Sobel says if other states choose to follow Arizona and Oklahoma's lead, they too will inevitably end up arguing with the feds in court. He says there is simply no easy solution to a problem that will remain a hot-button issue.

"Immigration law is by far the most convoluted, hardest, messed up area of the law I've been associated with," the immigration attorney said.