UPDATE: Governor Henry signed this bill on Tuesday, May 8th. Both sides conceded that the bill would have become law even if he vetoed it, because it passed the Legislature by strong veto-proof margins, giving the Governor little political choice except to sign the bill.
It's described as "the nation's most sweeping attempt to deny jobs and public benefits to illegal immigrants". After overwhelming bipartisan approval in the Legislature, the bill is now on the desk of Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, who is taking his time on signing or vetoing.
During last year's re-election campaign, Henry successfully dodged efforts to pin him down on what states can do to combat the problem, despite my efforts (as the Republican nominee) to elevate the issue. His general response was to say that immigration is a "federal problem", that the state would "cooperate" in vague ways, and then to blame me for the fact that Congress has not taken decisive action. His huge fund-raising advantage as the incumbent enabled him to saturate the airwaves with advertising that led to his decisive win.
Now the Legislature is forcing him to take stands, even as he continues trying to dodge. For example, he passed the buck to his buddy, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, as the supposed reason for vetoing a major lawsuit reform bill. He said the medical community was the reason he vetoed a bill that would have blocked most taxpayer-funded abortions. Now if he vetoes the immigration bill, where will he try to shift the blame?
This immigration reform bill was approved 84-14 by the House and 41-6 by the Senate, which indicates the votes are there for a potential override of a potential veto.
The measure contains the toughest state guidelines on dealing with illegal immigration in the nation, said Mike Hethmon, general counsel of the Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington.The Oklahoma bill builds on measures passed by other states but has a stronger focus on deterring unauthorized employment, he said, noting that it addresses the root cause of illegal immigration — exploitation of illegal immigrant labor. Among other things, the bill contains employment, labor law and civil rights provisions to protect citizens and legal immigrants who lose their jobs at companies that employ illegal immigrants to perform the same or similar work.
The measure targets employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens in order to gain a competitive advantage. Key elements of the bill focus on determining worker eligibility, including technology called the Basic Pilot program, which screens Social Security numbers to make sure they are real and that they match up with the person’s name. That federal program is used by the federal government and made available to private companies to verify the eligibility of their workers.
Employers would be permitted to avoid sanctions for hiring undocumented immigrants if they use the Basic Pilot program and other methods to verify worker eligibility.
The bill also would change the state's program that permits in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, requiring them to present documented proof that they have a pending application to become legal residents.
The bill's principal author, State Rep. Randy Terrill, said the Federation of American Immigration Reform estimates that illegal immigrants costs state taxpayers up to $200 million a year in public benefits and other resources.