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Will the Illegal Immigrant Issue Bite the Republicans in Oklahoma?

There are many issues that currently plague the state of Oklahoma, but the one’s that raising the most dust is the recent bill that was passed to allow state law enforcement officers to enquire about the immigration status of residents if they have undergone a federal training program. The state is divided over the issue, and the contention is not between the Democrats and the Republicans, but between two sects of the GOP.

After being voted back to power by a considerable margin and capturing the governorship of the state, apparently after promising voters a hard approach to the issue of illegal immigrants, some Republicans feel that the new bill is considerably soft on businesses that hire undocumented workers – the penalty imposed is not severe enough. However, others are of the opinion that coming down hard on businesses that hire illegal immigrants could end up spelling disaster for an economy that is already battered and bruised.

What about the locals who are citizens and those who hold valid immigration documents then? Don’t they suffer job losses if illegal immigrants are allowed to take over their jobs? Yes, that could be so, but when there are people who are willing to work for significantly lower salaries and with fewer expectations of any kind of employee benefits, it’s only natural that businesses prefer to hire undocumented workers who don’t kick up a fuss because they’re scared of being deported.

So a bill that could possibly see the harassment of the large population of Hispanics who inhabit Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the two largest cities in the state, is being criticized only as being lenient on businesses that hire illegal immigrants on the excuse that hurting local organizations would end up being bad for the economy at large. This seems to be a case of selective pampering – even as the state wants the illegal immigrants out, it does not want to hit them where it hurts the most, at their jobs which is the only reason they stay on in Oklahoma. And by allowing businesses a fair amount of leeway in hiring undocumented workers, the bill hurts the interests of the locals who are unable to secure employment because they demand better wages and working conditions.

So in effect, the bill could end up doing nothing at all – if businesses protect their illegal workers, then how does it help to get them out of the state? And if the state does not succeed in reducing the number of illegal immigrants, then what is the purpose of the bill? Oklahoma may as well have just left it to the federal government to worry about immigration hassles and focus on boosting their local economy using alternative means.