Hispanic Groups Protest State Illegal Immigration Bill

Monday, October 29th 2007, 4:01 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Latino leaders said Monday a new state law that targets illegal immigrants promotes hatred and predicted it will be blocked by a federal judge.

Hispanic officials and their supporters gathered at the state capitol three days before Oklahoma's sweeping immigration bill is scheduled to go into effect on Thursday. The measure, which received bipartisan support in the Legislature last spring, would bar illegal immigrants from getting jobs and state benefits.

The Reverend Victor Orta, state coordinator of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, said his organization supports "fair and comprehensive" reform of federal immigration regulations but that members of Congress have failed to enact reforms.

"They have used this as a political football," Orta said.

Orta and others said immigration is a federal responsibility, not the state's, and called for a moratorium on arrests and deportation of illegal immigrants until Congress addresses the issue.

Orta's group and several undocumented immigrants have challenged the state law in federal court in Tulsa. A hearing on their request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled Wednesday.

"This law strikes against Oklahoma values -- the value and dignity of families," he said.

Opponents have said the measure could result in the separation of children born in the U.S. and living in the state legally from their illegal immigrant parents, who would face deportation.

Steven Langer, an attorney in a largely Hispanic neighborhood in south Oklahoma City, said the law targets Hispanics who pay taxes, support the economy and are driving population growth in the state.

"I don't know why we're not being good hosts," Langer said.

"This is a tremendous pressure that we have right now in Oklahoma," said Mauro Yanez, a native of Venezuela who denounced the law's primary author, Representative Randy Terrill, R-Moore.

"We don't need another David Duke in Oklahoma," Yanez said referring to the former Louisiana lawmaker and Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Terrill said the illegal immigration measure is nationality neutral and does not target a specific race.

"It is preposterous for someone to assert that we should not enforce the law because the majority of the people who break it are of one particular race, ethnicity or national origin," Terrill said.

The measure contains safeguards against racial profiling," Terrill said. “Opponents are resorting to name-calling to avoid a debate on illegal immigration "which they know they will lose."

To learn more about House Bill 1804, click here.

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