Oklahoma House passes controversial immigration bill criminalizing ‘impermissible occupation’ News
James Johnson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Oklahoma House passes controversial immigration bill criminalizing ‘impermissible occupation’

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 4156 on Thursday by a vote of 77-20, which proposes the creation of the criminal act of impermissible occupation, targeting individuals who willfully enter and remain in Oklahoma without legal authorization to be in the United States.

Under the provisions of HB 4156, impermissible occupation is defined as the act of a noncitizen entering and remaining in Oklahoma without legal authorization. The first offense constitutes a misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to one year in the county jail, a fine not exceeding $500 or both. Additionally, the individual must leave the state within 72 hours following conviction or release from custody, with subsequent offenses classified as felonies, punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

The measure also imposes penalties on noncitizens who have been denied admission, excluded, removed or departed from the United States while facing an outstanding removal order and then enter or attempt to enter Oklahoma. Law enforcement is mandated to collect identifying information of those arrested for impermissible occupation, which is cross-referenced with criminal databases by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Proponents of the bill argue that it is essential to uphold the rule of law and protect state borders. However, Rep. Arturo Alonso-Sandoval (D) said the bill  “promotes racial profiling, which puts every Oklahoman at risk.” He further criticized the bill as “strictly political. This is not policy-focused. It’s not solution-focused. It’s campaign messaging.” House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, defended the bill, stating that “nothing inside this bill will allow racial profiling.”

The Oklahoma bill largely mimics a similar immigration bill from the Texas Legislature, which was signed into law in December 2023 and has since been embroiled in legal challenges. Iowa also passed a similar law in March.