Illegal immigration outlawed in Oklahoma starting July 1

Anyone living in Oklahoma as illegal immigrants would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both.

Published: May 1, 2024 11:02pm

(The Center Square) -

(The Center Square) - A bill that would make illegal immigration a state crime on July 1 is being praised and criticized by state lawmakers.

House Bill 4156 creates the crime of “impermissible occupation." It is defined as a person willfully and without permission entering and remaining in Oklahoma without first obtaining legal authorization to enter the United States, according to the bill.

Anyone living in Oklahoma as illegal immigrants would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Anyone found guilty would be required to leave the state within 72 hours following conviction or release from custody, whichever comes later, according to the bill. A second offense would be a felony.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed it Tuesday.

“I am disappointed this bill is necessary. Since President Biden took office in 2021, more than 10 million people have poured over the southern border,” Stitt said. “Countless individuals from across the globe, including thousands of Chinese nationals as well as people affiliated with terror organizations, have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Oklahomans are concerned by who could be lying in wait for an opportunity to bring harm to our country.”

Attorney General Gentner Drummond said the bill would help stem the state's illegal marijuana grow operations.

“Oklahoma has reaped the consequences of the Biden Administration’s utter failure to secure our nation’s border, as evidenced by the flood of illegal marijuana grows and other criminal activity connected to Chinese syndicates and Mexican cartels,” Drummond said. “HB 4156 gives law enforcement the tools necessary to ensure public safety for all Oklahomans. I am grateful to House Speaker McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Treat for their swift action in making the bill a reality.”

Others said the bill is unconstitutional.

"This legislation is dangerous and scary, and I am saddened to see the Governor overlook the many—progressive, conservative, and religious—voices in opposition of this bill. Not to mention the voices of people who would be directly impacted," said House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City. "This legislation is all about partisan politics in an election year, not about solving real problems for Oklahomans. Border security is the responsibility of the federal government."

Member of the Latino Caucus said the bill is making some Oklahomans anxious.

"Our caucus has done our best to quell fear and address questions at various town hall meetings from Oklahoma City to Tulsa," said Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, who chairs the caucus. "It has been abundantly clear that folks across the state understand what is at stake — profound loss of revenue and workforce, strain on law enforcement, and expensive legal challenges. We have said from the very beginning that there are common sense policy solutions that we should be discussing, and I am disappointed that the governor chose not to revisit that conversation.”

The law is similar to one in Texas that is currently being challenged in federal court. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also signed a bill making illegal immigration a state crime. The bill takes effect on July 1 and is not facing a court challenge at this time.

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