Protesters Criticize New, Strict Immigration Law At Okla. Capitol, Gov. Stitt Responds

A protest was held Wednesday at the Oklahoma Capitol against HB 4156. This bill has lots of criticism, one outspoken group is the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders. 

Wednesday, May 15th 2024, 10:25 pm

By: News 9, Matt McCabe


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A protest was held Wednesday at the Oklahoma Capitol against House Bill 4156.

Mariana Sanchez, the co-owner of Rika's Botanas, was one of several businesses to close and instead go to the rally.

"It's saddening because this can affect thousand and thousands of families," Sanchez said. "It frightens families, it frightens our children. It's kind of one of those deals where you're just in the middle. You don't know where you stand."

HB 4156 was signed into law in early May and is scheduled to take effect on July 1 and would require immigrants living in the United States illegally to leave the state within 72 hours of being caught.

Related: ‘It’s Going To Cost Oklahomans A Lot Of Money To Fight This’: Local Immigration Attorney Reacts To New Immigration Law

The Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has spoken with several state leaders, including the Governor, about the bill. 

"The economic impact, we're going to feel it in Oklahoma," said CEO David Castillo. "It's going to be very negative."

Castillo said the Hispanic community in Oklahoma is an economic engine. He estimates nearly $8 billion in buying power across the state. 

"It's overall not good for Oklahoma," he said. "It puts fear in communities. And the other part is racial profiling. We know it's going to happen."

This bill has lots of criticism, one outspoken group is the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders. 

“This bill places crime victims at risk by increasing the fear of reporting to law enforcement,” the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders said in a statement. “Further, HB4156 brings forth legal challenges in fair and impartial policing and anti-racial profiling. These unintended consequences may deteriorate public trust in law enforcement in already vulnerable communities, ultimately resulting in increased public safety concerns.”

Gov. Stitt clarified in an interview with News 9 that the state would not be seeking anyone out, it would only be applied to people already being charged or investigated for a crime.

Related: Governor Kevin Stitt Aims To Clear Confusion On New Immigration Law 

Even if these communities are not threatened by door-to-door policing, there is still a fear that crimes will go unreported in Hispanic communities rather than risk deportation.

“We recognize the many immigrant communities within our state who are fearful and uncertain about their futures,” the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders said. “This law has the potential to destroy the connections and relationships we have built within our local immigrant communities and set us back for many years to come.”

Gov. Stitt has created a taskforce, the Oklahoma State Work Permits and Visas (OSWPV) Task Force, aiming to limit confusion and to find ways to ensure legal immigrants, or people working on their legal status, can still come to or stay in Oklahoma. 

Below is the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and Metro Law Enforcement Agency Leaders’ full statement:

“House Bill 4156 was recently signed into law by Governor Stitt with an effective date of July 1, 2024. Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are actively collaborating to ensure our response to this legislation is unified and our communities are informed about how it may impact them. While we acknowledge the importance of legislative efforts to enhance public safety, we have found that this law conflicts with many existing directives governing law enforcement practices throughout Oklahoma.
“Law enforcement leaders from state organizations and municipalities were not substantively involved during the process of drafting and signing HB4156 into law. This bill places crime victims at risk by increasing the fear of reporting to law enforcement. Further, HB4156 brings forth legal challenges in fair and impartial policing and anti-racial profiling. These unintended consequences may deteriorate public trust in law enforcement in already vulnerable communities, ultimately resulting in increased public safety concerns.
“We recognize the many immigrant communities within our state who are fearful and uncertain about their futures. This law has the potential to destroy the connections and relationships we have built within our local immigrant communities and set us back for many years to come. We are committed to maintaining trust and communication between law enforcement and all immigrant communities as we navigate the future.
“It is imperative we work collaboratively towards solutions that prioritize public safety while upholding the rights of all members of our communities. We will continue to work with our respective legal advisors and community stakeholders to ensure our service is both lawful and consistent with community expectations that respect all those we serve.”

Gov. Stitt issued the following statement:

“Our state capitol is the People’s House, and we’re blessed to live in a country where free speech is protected.
“After Attorney General Gentner Drummond requested HB 4156, we knew this was going to create challenging narratives for Oklahoma’s Hispanic communities. That’s why I launched a task force to come up with clear legal pathways for people to join our workforce and help those who embrace our country’s values and want to contribute to the economy.
“Oklahoma is going to be a law and order state while uplifting Hispanic Oklahomans and all those who seek to join the American Dream.”
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