[JURIST] An Hispanic advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson [official profiles], claiming that a recently approved state law limiting government privileges allowed illegal immigrants is unfair to all immigrants. Lawyers for the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) [advocacy website] announced the suit [CONLAMIC statement] at a press conference in front of the federal court in Tulsa, OK. The suit, though directed against Henry and Edmondson, generally attacks the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007 [HB 1804 text, RTF], which denies illegal immigrants state identification and requires all Oklahoma government agencies to verify immigrants' citizenship before conferring benefits. The bill is considered one of the toughest on illegal immigration [JURIST news archive] in the country, but CONLAMIC's legal action focuses more on the impact the bill could have after it takes effect on November 1. CONLAMIC President Miguel Rivera [advocacy profile] says that Oklahoma Hispanic evangelical churches have already lost an average of 12 percent of their membership since the state legislature passed the bill, and suggested that Hispanic emigration from the state in general has followed a similar trend [CONLAMIC bulletin].
Henry signed the bill [JURIST report] in May. Supporters praised the measure as a way to save taxpayer money, but immigrant groups criticized it for saddling Latinos with new discriminatory barriers in housing and jobs. Along with CONLAMIC, the League of United Latin American Citizens [advocacy website] and other advocacy groups have said they may challenge the law's constitutionality on the grounds that immigration policy is the responsibility of the federal government, not the state. The Tulsa World has more.