Much has been said over the past four or five years about the immigration reform issue. As a candidate for office in 2004 and 2006, I can certainly attest first hand to the fact that immigration reform has been one of the top issues where people desire action. As an officeholder, I supported House Bill 1804 which provided for a series of immigration reforms.
One of the most important reforms was for a way to hold employers responsible for hiring those who are legally eligible to be hired. Probably the most important component of reform in HB 1804 was a part of the bill that encouraged employers to verify the legality of an applicant's social security number.
I think the sentiment of the people on this subject was expressed very well by Senator Patrick Anderson in a recent speech he gave at the Guthrie Lions Club. In his presentation, Anderson described how a small businessman approached and told him that he appreciated the reforms in HB 1804. The business owner explained that he had been at a competitive disadvantage because his competitors would hire illegal laborers while he was conscientious about following the law. The provision of HB 1804 that encouraged employers to verify social security numbers leveled the playing field between those who followed the spirit of the law and those who turned a blind eye to it.
Because of the passage of House Bill 1804, this verification process was set to start July 1st.
Unfortunately, a recent decision by an activist federal judge placed a hold on Oklahoma's ability to enforce this most important provision. The judge stated she was placing the hold because there was a likelihood that a lawsuit against this provision would be successful.
This ruling was made possible because of a lawsuit filed last February by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the State Chamber, the Oklahoma City and Tulsa Chambers of Commerce, and the Oklahoma Restaurant, Hotel and Lodging Associations, contending that it places unreasonable burdens on businesses.
If this judge's ruling is allowed to stand, it will greatly damage Oklahoma's attempt to provide a solution to the illegal immigration issues. Quite simply, the problem has been fueled by those who are turning a blind eye to the law when it comes time to hiring illegal labor.
As your State Representative, I remain committed to defending this important legal reform through the introduction of additional legislation if necessary and I am deeply disappointed by the actions of the Chambers of Commerce. I think they are attacking a law that is helping their most conscientious and law-abiding members.