The latest immigration deal, forged by Senate Democrats and Republicans with the White House this week, is already getting a bipartisan thumbs-down from Oklahoma lawmakers.
Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, and John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, both said it included “amnesty” provisions for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
The reaction is hardly surprising.
All of the Oklahoma lawmakers hear constantly from their constituents about the issue, and most of that feedback comes in the form of complaints about the number of illegal aliens and the fact that the federal government hasn’t done enough to stem the flow or punish employers who hire undocumented workers.
The Oklahoma Legislature recently passed _ and Gov. Brad Henry signed _ a bill that is considered the toughest in the nation to prevent people in the state illegally from receiving taxpayer funded services. If the state’s congressional delegation didn’t already know how strong the feelings were back home, they knew after that bill passed.
The Senate is expected to take up the new bill first and may have a test vote early next week. The legislation has measures for securing the border and requiring employers to verify citizenship. When certain border security benchmarks were met, people here illegally could apply for visas, and future immigrants could apply to a guest worker program.
Boren said today, “Any effective immigration reform has to start with securing the border, and the Senate bill makes some positive steps in that direction. But I have concerns with other provisions in the bill.
“Amnesty sends the wrong signal. Immigration reform should reflect a commitment to enforcement, not reward those who blatantly break the rules.”
Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, who has been fighting for more secure borders and a crackdown on illegal immigrants for years, said, “It is irresponsible for Congress to even consider amnesty or guest worker legislation until our current immigration laws are enforced and our borders secure.
“Granting amnesty to illegal aliens would be an utter failure, just like it was in 1986. We are rewarding law breakers with a path to U.S. citizenship, our nation’s highest honor.”
Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, voted against legislation last year that included guest worker and path to citizenship provisions. That bill passed in the Senate, but an agreement on it could not be reached with the House.
If the Senate bill progresses, Inhofe is expected to offer an amendment to make English the official language of the United States. The Senate approved his amendment on the topic last year, but it died when the 2006 immigration bill did.