HB 1804 – Where’s the "Shock and Awe?"

Laws in Arizona and Oklahoma cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants are getting mixed reviews regarding their effectiveness. Since illegal immigrants are not registered anywhere as such, it is impossible to get accurate numbers, so estimates are done largely based on opinion.

Earlier this year, Sonora, Mexico and the Houston, TX area began appealing for relief, claiming that the influx of those fleeing legislation in both states was creating hardships for their welfare systems. The complaints from Mexico came only about two weeks after the Arizona legislation became effective, and Houston was complaining within less than three months.

The question here, is whether the hardships endured by the welfare agencies were reactive or proactive – were they an actual result of sudden mass migration out of Arizona and Mexico? Or were they simply anticipating what New Jersey Rev. Miguel Rivera, a latino-rights activists refers to as “ethnic cleansing“?

The Northwest Arkansas Democrat and Gazette interviewed folks on both sides of the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, and reports that there may not quite be the “shock and awe” anticipated with OK HB 1804’s immigration reform becoming effective:

Along Arkansas’ western border, school districts report no influx of Hispanic students. In eastern Oklahoma, landlords, school administrators and builders said they see few, if any, signs of a large-scale migration.

“I was expecting a doomsday scenario,” said Paul Kane, chief executive of the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa. But the Nov. 1 effective date came and went with no contractors calling in to report a shortage of framers or roofers, he said.

“A lot of the hysteria was just that,” Kane concluded. “It was hysteria.” Rivaled only by Arizona for putting up a hard front against illegal immigration, Oklahoma has made it a felony to drive an illegal alien to work or to rent an apartment to an illegal alien….(more)

So, why hasn’t there been the anticipated change? What about the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants that were predicted to flee to surrounding states and Mexico in search of jobs and government aid?

Part of the problem may be that Oklahoma business owners have been intimidated by the threat of being sued at the Federal level for discrimination if they try to obey the law at the local level.

The Tulsa World reported on Monday:

Oklahoma’s immigration law was one of the first passed by a state and is viewed by some as the most stringent.

It already has drawn a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and local chambers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, which are asking the court to bar the state from implementing provisions on verifying eligibility for workers and authorization status of independent contractors.

Those provisions, the lawsuit claims, place an unreasonable and unfair burden on Oklahoma businesses.

As the Democrat and Gazette concluded:

Observers say immigrants are staying because they realize that the get-tough law is only as tough as its enforcement…Police statewide have not adopted a proactive enforcement posture that includes making workplace raids. “Once they realized Oklahoma had not turned into a Gestapo state, they thought they would come on home,” [Paul Kane] said.

For his part, [Lonnie Vaughan of the anti-1804 group United Front Task Force] still is shuttling immigrants without driver’s licenses to the church where he is associate pastor. “Every time I get in the van, I’m committing a felony,” he said, convinced that some of the flock are in the country illegally. But he said he doesn’t believe, even in the state with America’s toughest immigration law, Oklahoma would bring a felony charge against a citizen for driving someone to church.

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