The Oklahoma State Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved [press release] a bill similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive]. Senate Bill 908 [materials, PDF], passed by a 29-15 majority vote, gives state and local authorities to enforce any federal regulation or law concerning immigration. The proposed bill delegates police officers the authority to question the citizenship status of any person lawfully stopped for a traffic violation and arrest them without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is in the country illegally. The bill also authorizes police officers to seize any property, including vehicles and personal property, used to harbor or transport illegal immigrants into the US. Some Senate members had disagreed over the controversial bill, fearing it would be deemed unconstitutional [KOCO report]. Senator Ralph Shortey (R) [official profile] praised the approval:
Today's vote sends a message to the people of Oklahoma that we have listened to their concerns and acted accordingly. I authored this proposal because I care about the people of my district and have witnessed firsthand the manner in which illegal immigration can limit economic development, increase crime rates and tear families apart. Passage of this legislation is a strong step toward addressing the issue and a victory for Oklahoma.The bill will now move to the Oklahoma House [official website] for a vote.
Oklahoma is one of several states that have developed legislation in the past year reflecting the controversial Arizona immigration law. This week, Utah Governor Gary Herbert [official website] signed into law [press release] a package of bills [JURIST report] aimed at both reforming the state's immigration laws and challenging the federal government to take action for reform nationally. One of the four bills, H.B. 497 [materials], is an enforcement law similar to the controversial Arizona immigration law, and requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested for an alleged felony or serious misdemeanor. The US Department of Justice [official website] in July filed suit [JURIST report] against Arizona Governor Jan Brewer [official website] seeking to permanently enjoin the state's immigration law. The complaint states that the law is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The Arizona law criminalizes illegal immigration and requires police officers to question an individual's immigration status if the officer has a "reasonable suspicion" to believe an individual is in the country illegally. It has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling.