Monday, August 13, 2007

Courts To Decide Illegal Immigration Issue

Courts To Decide Illegal Immigration Issue

Perhaps the bill approved during this legislative session with some of the most far reaching consequences was House Bill 1804. House Bill 1804 is reportedly the most stringent immigration reform bill in the nation and takes a number of dramatic steps to crack down on the illegal immigration problem.

HB 1804 is designed to stop illegals from getting both jobs and public benefits. It also contains a requirements that local law enforcement enforce federal immigration law and includes punishments for people who knowingly harbor or transport undocumented aliens.

The passage of House Bill 1804 represented the culmination of two years of work by State Representative Randy Terrill (R-Moore). The bill passed a number of hurdles including a last minute public decision by Governor Brad Henry to not veto the law. Now, the law faces what may be it's toughest challenge yet.

A group known as "The United Front Task Force" has formed as a response to House Bill 1804 and kicked off their opposition to bill by launching a public-awareness campaign, including a billboard going up in the Tulsa area. The billboard asks the question "Is if Ok ... for Oklahoma to have a law that promotes hate among people?"

Perhaps the group's most effective tool against the law is their plan to file a lawsuit before the law takes effect.

Their effort gained momentum when a federal judge in Pennsylvania struck down an illegal immigration reform law that had been passed by the small Pennsylvania town of Hazelton. The judge asserted that the town's law was pre-empted by federal law and would breach due-process rights. "Hazleton, in its zeal to control the presence of a group deemed undesirable, violated the rights of such people, as well as others within the community," he said in his opinion.

One of the attorneys who is a member of this task force is publicly soliciting for illegal immigrants to serve as plaintiffs as part of the strategy of filing lawsuits. In his solicitation attorney Russel Abbott makes the following statement. "Undocumented workers are not criminals who are here to do us harm, they are simply poor people trying to survive, and to provide for their families. Some people in Oklahoma openly hate immigrants, but I believe they are only a minority, albeit with a tendency to be extremely vocal about their beliefs. I think most Oklahomans have compassion for the less fortunate, even those who do not speak English. I believe most Oklahomans do not wish to deploy their law enforcement officers in an unnecessary and racist effort to police the American border with Mexico...National organizations, including the ACLU and MALDEF, are getting involved to help with the court case."

Representative Terrill has responded by asking the group to declare who it is that will be financing the planned lawsuits. "The failure to disclose donors prevents media scrutiny and keeps the public from knowing the real agenda of those who are promoting the judicial equivalent of a ballot measure," Terrill said. "This group is trying to use the judiciary to indirectly accomplish a goal they cannot achieve through the political process," he added.

I certainly concur with Terrill's remarks. I believe this will be a significant test of state's rights. Hopefully the federal court system will do the right thing and uphold the people of Oklahoma's right to make laws discouraging illegal immigration.

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