Laying Down The Law On Illegal Workers

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 5:39 pm
By: News On 6

Vinita has joined the list of Oklahoma towns cracking down on undocumented workers. The city council passed a measure Wednesday night that will punish a business if it hires illegals. Vinita's Mayor Joe Johnson says they wouldn't have to do this if the state legislature would pass a similar law, but he says they haven't, so Vinita has. Johnson says the ordinance was prompted by Vinita residents who claim they have lost work to illegal immigrants in nearby towns.

The News On 6’s Steve Berg reports Johnson says this is a preemptive strike to keep it from happening in Vinita.

“We had several citizens come to us and ask us to pass an ordinance to eliminate illegal people from working in Vinita," said Johnson.

And it would hit businesses where it hurts, yanking their city business permit and preventing them from operating.

"The first offense, you lose it for 3 days,” Johnson said. “The second offense, you lose it for 20 days, and you can be fined $200, plus court costs, for an offense."

Johnson concedes that complaints most often originate from alleged problems with Hispanic illegals, but he says the ordinance is not race-specific and neither is their target.

"A prime example, we have a person from Holland,” said Johnson. “He's not an American citizen, but he's here legally, and he owns a hotel here in Vinita and pays taxes, and we're glad to have anyone who's here legally in the United States. Come to Vinita and work."

Vinita joins Oologah and other towns around the country that have grown impatient waiting for the state and federal government to address the problem. Johnson says an ordinance gives them an option they haven't had.

"If you have someone come to town who's illegal. What can you do? Call immigration? They're usually so busy they just say turn them loose," said Johnson.

The mayor says nobody spoke out against the ordinance at the council meeting Wednesday. He says residents also have plans to approach county commissioners for a countywide law. He says the city police will be responsible for enforcing this ordinance.

Related stories:

9/12/2006 - Tulsa City Council Talks Immigration Enforcement

10/3/2006 - Oologah's Council Passes Ordinance Aimed At Illegal Immigrants

11/2/2006 - Tulsa City Council Wants To Discourage The Hiring Of Illegals

3/7/2007 - Targeting Illegals In Oklahoma