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Oklahoma lawmakers propose criminal charges for immigrants in state without legal permission

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, left, and House Speaker Charles McCall, right, can't agree on how to best cut taxes with the $11 billion budget the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization certified Thursday.
Legislative Services Bureau
Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, left, and House Speaker Charles McCall, right, can't agree on how to best cut taxes with the $11 billion budget the Oklahoma State Board of Equalization certified Thursday.

House and Senate leadership unveiled details on a proposal punishing people for entering and remaining in the state without legal permission Thursday, and they want to create a new crime to try and combat illegal immigration.

The new crime is called “impermissible occupation.”

For a first offense, the charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a $500 fine. For a second offense, it's a felony charge, up to 2 years in prison and a $1,000 fine. Upon serving their sentence, a person would then have 72 hours to leave the state.

House Speaker Charles McCall is leading the effort alongside his counterpart in the Senate, Pro Tem Greg Treat.

McCall says the soon-to-be-filed bill uses language upheld by federal courts. He added, it will also prevent local officials from taking their own initiative to protect immigrant communities.

“Cities will not be able to make their own individual designation of whether or not they want sanctuary city status or not,” McCall said. “This bill will preempt that and will not allow that in the state of Oklahoma.”

Leadership in both the House and Senate say they’ve drafted the measure with advice and input from the state’s Attorney General Gentner Drummond, who’s publicly stated his support for some kind of state-level immigration enforcement.

The goal, Treat said in a press release, is to deter people from coming to Oklahoma and encourage those who want to stay in the state to seek the “clear pathway to citizenship.”

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Lionel Ramos covers state government for a consortium of Oklahoma’s public radio stations. He is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos with a degree in English. He has covered race and equity, unemployment, housing, and veterans' issues.
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