Oklahoma’s, along with Georgia’s, new laws cracking down on immigration will be worth monitoring over the next year. We could be seeing a return to using the states as policy laboratories used to spawn new ways of solving federal problems. If theses new approaches are successful we may have found a blueprint for solving the federal problem of illegal immigration.
From The Houston Chronicle:
All eyes are on Oklahoma this week where one of the most stringent anti-illegal immigration laws in the country goes into effect Thursday.
The sweeping law would prohibit illegal immigrants from getting jobs and state benefits, and would make it a felony to harbor or transport undocumented workers. The law also prevents illegal immigrants who arrested from posting bond.
But on the eve of the legislation’s effective date, pressure is mounting against the measure. There are already media reports of thousands of immigrants fleeing the state, putting construction projects at a standstill. Employers are worried about the effects of the law.
The Associated Press reported that a representative of Catholic Charities on Tuesday delivered almost 1,100 signed pledges opposing the law to Gov. Brad Henry’s office. From the AP story:
Richard Klinge, director of advocacy and legal services for Catholic Charities, carried a foot-tall stack of pledges into Henry’s office from parishioners at the predominantly Hispanic Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oklahoma City.
The pledges vow “opposition and defiance” to the law scheduled to go into effect Thursday that targets illegal immigrants. In spite of the law, Klinge said the church will continue to serve the poor and needy regardless of their immigration status.
One of the familiar arguments for curbing illegal immigration is that the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. cost the government billions of dollars.
But a story in The Journal Record raises questions about whether Oklahoma’s law will actually cost more to enforce. The story says the author of the legislation asserted that illegal immigrants “cost the state untold millions of dollars to provide schooling, emergency health care and welfare benefits, along with increased costs for incarcerating illegal immigrants and even for maintaining public roads traveled upon by illegal aliens.”
However, there’s a cost to losing this pipeline of workers. An excerpt from the story:
Instead of allowing those working toward citizenship to continue contributing to the state’s economy both as laborers and consumers, the state will be removing a segment of its work force and dumping those workers into an already overcrowded prison system until they can be deported, said opponents of the law. Furthermore, the state will soon have to address the fact that deportees often leave behind dependants of all ages who may or may not be U.S. citizens.