House bill targets undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma

A state House bill targeting undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma has passed and moved on to the state Senate. House Bill 4156 specifically targets undocumented immigrants who willingly enter and remain in the state. The measure proposes the creation of impermissible occupation as a criminal act. 

A woman holding her child raises wrist to show border patrol agents she has been waiting between two border walls to apply for aslylum (GREGORY BULL/AP PHOTO)

A first offense would be a misdemeanor and would result in jail time no more than a year and a fine up to $500. Following jail time and payment of the fine, the person would be given 72 hours to leave the state and be prohibited from returning. 

A second offense would result in jail time up to two years and a fine up to $1,000. The bill also includes a preemption clause prohibiting any municipalities from becoming sanctuary cities, according to a press release from the State of Oklahoma House of Representatives. 

The bill was authored by the Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Oklahoma Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat and passed the House by a vote of 77-20. 

The bill is similar to Texas’s Senate Bill 4 where it is a state crime for illegally crossing the Mexican border and coming into the state. The bill went into effect in early March. 

Members of the Oklahoma Legislative Latino Caucus strongly opposed the bill. Rep. Arturo Alonso-Sandoval (D-89) released a statement following the passage of HB 4156. 

“The passage of this bill ignores that undocumented Oklahomans pay over $26 million in taxes and provides no way to amend that gap in tax dollars,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “Not only that, it promotes racial profiling which puts every Oklahoman at risk.” 

Alonso-Sandoval also took to social media, where he released another statement specifically directed to the Hispanic/Latino community where he provided support amongst the fear of this new bill. 

“Como hijo de padres inmigrantes entiendo que la propuesta de HB4156 está causando mucho miedo y ansiedad dentro de nuestras comunidades, y con razón, ya que podría impactar directamente a ustedes o a sus seres queridos,” Alonso-Sandoval said. 

[Translation: As a child of immigrant parents, I understand that proposed HB4156 is causing a lot of fear and anxiety within our communities, and rightly so, as it could directly impact you or your loved ones.]

Alonso-Sandoval mentioned there have been conversations with several defense groups about HB 4156. 

“Hemos estado en conversaciones con varios grupos de defensa para presentar una demanda contra esta medida, de la cual esperamos que tenga un resultado similar a la ley SB4 de Texas que ha sido detenida por los tribunales,” Alonso-Sandoval said. 

[Translation: We have been in conversations with several defense groups to file a lawsuit against this measure, which we hope will have a similar outcome to Texas SB4 law that has been stopped in court.]

He also encouraged his community to come together and get involved in understanding the bill. 

“Este es un momento en el que debemos unirnos y encontrar formas de construir una comunidad más fuerte y unida en todo el estado,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “Participen en diferentes eventos para saber qué está pasando y que pueden hacer para oponer esta medida.” 

[Translation: This is a time we must come together and find ways to build a stronger, united community across the state. Participate in different events to know what is happening and what you can do to oppose this measure.] 

Following the passing of HB 4156, several organizations are hosting info sessions and events about the bill including the Mexican Consulate in Oklahoma City and Dream Action Oklahoma. 

The Hispanic American Student Association at UCO has not yet planned any information sessions or educational events regarding HB 4156. However, many students are concerned about how this bill will directly impact them and their family. 

Due to safety and privacy concerns, this student has decided to remain anonymous and will be identified as “Smith.” 

“House Bill 4156 makes me worry for my family and friends that will be impacted by this bill,” Smith said. “They will have to fear being imprisoned and forced to rebuild a whole new life somewhere else, which they might not have the financial means to do so,” Smith said. 

Smith said they do not understand the need for this bill. 

“A bill like this is not appropriate, because this will tear more families apart, causing trauma and hardships to the members of those families,” Smith said.

The bill still needs to be voted on in the state Senate and then needs to be signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt to become a law. 

A peaceful rally opposing HB 4156 will be taking place outside the State Capitol on April 23. Among the attendees will be Ytzel Jara Gonzalez-Olvera, a UCO alumnus. 

“I plan on attending rallies and informational sessions,” Gonzalez-Olvera said. “I believe in the power of getting informed and sharing the learned knowledge as well as resources. 

Gonzalez-Olvera says the bill will have immense implications and is threatening to the Hispanic/Latino community. 

“Time after time, the Latino community is targeted for their legal status when it should not matter,” Gonzalez-Olvera said. “Racial profiling will increase, making many Hispanic/Latino people scared of living their lives outside of home, let alone asking for help from various governmental resources.” 

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