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Oklahoma Senate approves legislation targeting undocumented workers

The Oklahoma Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved HB 1446 [materials], a bill creating a criminal penalty for undocumented workers who hold jobs and criminalizing the transportation of those workers into the state. The bill, written by Representative George Faught (R) and Senator Ron Justice (R) [official profiles], makes it a misdemeanor for undocumented immigrants to hold jobs or apply for jobs in the state. In addition to criminalizing certain actions in relation to immigration status, the bill gives police more power to question an individual's immigration status if they suspect an individual is in the country illegally. It also repeals a law allowing illegal immigrants to qualify to pay in-state tuition costs at the state's public universities. The bill was approved by the Oklahoma House [official website] last month and will be sent to Governor Mary Fallin (R) [official website] once differences between the House and Senate bills are reconciled.

This bill is just one of a number of legislative actions targeting illegal immigration that have been passed recently in many different states. Last year, Arizona passed [JURIST report] an immigration law [SB 1070 materials; JURIST news archive] that would require any individual suspected of being an illegal immigrant to present valid identification to law enforcement officials. The Oklahoma Senate passed a similar bill [JURIST report] last month. Within the past year, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Utah and Indiana [JURIST reports] have also approved Arizona-style immigration laws. Despite their increased usage, these laws remain controversial. 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 has been widely criticized in regard to the law's constitutionality and alleged "legalization" of racial profiling.

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